Article originally posted July, 2021.
Kidney stones are hard deposits that form due to high levels of minerals and salts in the urine. When these wastes build up, and you do not have enough fluid in your body to flush them out, stones may form. The stones may pass out of your system unnoticed or may cause a significant amount of pain.
There are four main types of kidney stones:
- Calcium stones – most common type of kidney stone. Often caused by an oxalate-rich diet, high doses of vitamin D, certain metabolic disorders or certain medications.
- Uric acid stones – not a common type of stone. May be caused by not drinking enough fluids, eating too much protein, chronic diarrhea, type 2 diabetes or gout.
- Struvite or infection stones – an uncommon type of stone that may grow quickly and is associated with an infection.
- Cystine stones – a rare type of stone that is caused by genetic factors. These stones are due to increased levels of cystine in the urine.
One in ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives.
Kidney stones may be caused by a variety of factors:
- Family or personal history of kidney stones
- Not drinking enough water
- Diet high in sodium, protein or sugar
- Being overweight
- Surgery or a condition that causes irritation in the bowel
- Certain medications
Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the specific type and cause of your kidney stones.
Kidney stones may be “silent” and pass unnoticed without causing any symptoms. Larger stones that form a blockage in the kidney can be very painful and cause additional symptoms, including:
- Sharp pain or cramps in the lower back and side, sometimes radiating to the lower abdomen or groin
- Increase in the urgency or frequency of urination
- Pain or burning sensation while urinating
- Difficulty urinating or ability to only urinate a small amount
- Dark or red-tinged urine
- Urine that is cloudy or has a foul smell
- Nausea and vomiting
Diagnosis and Testing
In order to determine the size, makeup and location of your kidney stone, your healthcare provider may order a urine test, blood tests, KUB (kidneys, ureters and bladder) x-ray or CT scan. Be sure to share any family and personal history of kidney stones with your healthcare provider.
Options for treatment will be decided by you and your healthcare provider, including:
- Wait for the stone to pass on its own – Often, especially with smaller stones, by drinking more water and giving it time, the stone will pass by itself.
- Medication – Depending on the type of stone you have, certain medications may make it easier and less painful to pass kidney stones.
- Surgery – Surgical removal of a stone can become necessary when kidney function is affected by the stone, the stone is causing severe pain, or the stone has failed to pass on its own.
There are lifestyle choices you can make that may help to prevent kidney stones. Your healthcare provider will determine why your kidney stones are forming and give you specific tips for prevention. Preventive treatment may include:
- Drink plenty of water and fluids – work toward 8 to 12 cups per day
- Decrease your sodium intake
- Eat the recommended amount of calcium
- Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Eat fewer foods with high oxalate levels
- Limit the amount of meat and sugar in your diet
Source: National Kidney Foundation