Your kidneys remove waste and fluids from your body to make urine. Sometimes when you have too much of a waste and not enough fluid in your blood, this waste can accumulate and clump together in your kidneys. These clumps of waste are called kidney stones or also known as kidney stones.

There are four main types of kidney stones

  • Calcium stones (calcium stones) are the most common type of kidney stones. They are usually made of calcium and oxalate (a natural chemical found in most foods) but are sometimes made of calcium and phosphate.
  • Uric acid stones form when urine is often too acidic. Uric acid can form stones by itself or with calcium.
  • Struvite stones can happen when you have certain types of urinary tract infections in which bacteria make ammonia that builds up in the urine. Struvite stones are made of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate.
  • Cystine stones are made from a chemical that the body produces naturally, called cystine. Cystine stones are very rare and occur in people who have a genetic disorder that causes cystine to leak from the kidneys in urine.

Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large – sometimes larger – than a pearl. They can stay in the kidneys or travel through the ureters (the tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder) and out of your body with urine. When the stone moves through the ureters and out of the urethra with urine, it is called passing a kidney stone (kidney stone). A stone can also get trapped in your urinary tract and can block urine from passing through. When you pass a kidney stone or have a large stone blocking the flow of urine, it can be very painful.

Who is most at risk for kidney stones?

Anyone can get a kidney stone, but some people are more likely than others to get them. Men get kidney stones more often than women. Kidney stones are also more common in non-Hispanic whites than in people of other ethnicities. You may also be more likely to have a kidney stone if:

  • You have had kidney stones before
  • Has someone in your family had kidney stones
  • You don’t drink enough water
  • You eat a diet high in protein, sodium, and / or sugar
  • Are you overweight or obese
  • You have had gastric bypass surgery or other intestinal surgery
  • You have polycystic kidney disease or other cystic kidney disease
  • If you have a certain condition that causes your urine to contain high levels of cystine, oxalate, uric acid, or calcium
  • If you have a condition that causes swelling or irritation in your intestines or joints
  • You take certain medications such as diuretics (water pills) or calcium-based antacids

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

If you have a small kidney stone that can be easily moved through your urinary tract, you may not have any symptoms, and you may never know you had a kidney stone.

If you have a larger kidney stone, you may notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain while urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Sharp pain in your back or lower abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you feel any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider.

What are the treatments for kidney stones?

Treatment for kidney stones depends on the size of the stone, what it is made of (type of stone), whether it is caused by pain, and whether it is blocking the urinary tract. To answer these questions and find the right treatment for you, your doctor may ask you to do you get a urinalysis, blood tests, X-rays and / or a CT scan. The CT scan sometimes uses a contrast medium. If you’ve ever had a problem with contrast dye, be sure to tell your doctor about it before having the CT scan. If your test results show that your stone is small, your doctor may direct you to take pain medication and drink plenty of fluids to help push the stone through your urinary tract. If your stone is large, or if it is blocking your urinary tract, additional treatment may be necessary.

One treatment option is shock wave lithotripsy. This treatment uses shock wave to break the stones into small pieces. After treatment, the small pieces of the stone will pass through your urinary tract and out of your body with the urine. This treatment generally lasts between 45 minutes and an hour and can be performed under general anesthesia, which means that you will be asleep and will not feel pain.

Another treatment option is ureteroscopy. This treatment is also done under general anesthesia. The doctor uses a long tube-shaped instrument to find and remove the stone or to find and break the stone into small pieces. If the stone is small, the doctor may be able to remove it. If it is large, it may have to be torn into pieces. In this case, a laser is used to break the stone into pieces that are small enough to pass through your urinary tract.

In rare cases, a surgery called a percutaneous nephrolithotomy is needed to remove a kidney stone. During surgery, a tube will be inserted directly into the kidney to remove the stone. You will have to stay in the hospital for two to three days to have and recover from this treatment.

How can I prevent kidney stones?

The best way to prevent most kidney stones is to drink enough fluids each day. Most people should have 8 to 12 cups of fluids a day. If you have kidney disease and need to limit the amount of fluids you drink, ask your doctor what is the appropriate amount of fluids you should drink each day.  Limiting sodium and protein from animals (meats, eggs) in your diet can help prevent kidney stones. If your doctor finds out what type of stone you had, he may be able to recommend a specific diet to prevent stones in the future.

If you have a medical condition that makes you more likely to have a kidney stone, your doctor may recommend taking medication to treat this condition.