Kidney Stones

A woman pressing on her back with a fist where her kidney is located

Kidney stones are actual stones that form in the kidneys. Salts, such as calcium, oxalate, sodium, magnesium, or uric acid, can create crystals in the kidney. Eventually these crystals become stones. Stones can cause pain, blood in the urine, or even block the kidney.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Diagnosis is usually dependent on seeing a stone in the urinary tract. Your doctor may order an XRay, ultrasound, or CT scan to visualize the stone. Treatment of kidney stones depends on the size, location, and number of stones. If a stone gets stuck in the ureter, the tube that drains the kidney, you may need medicine or surgery to help pass it.

Surgical options include:


  • A small telescope travels up the urethra to the bladder and into the ureter or the kidney. A laser may be used to break the stone up into small pieces.

Shock wave lithtripsy

  • Shock waves are directed at the stone from outside the body to break the stone into smaller pieces.

Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy

  • Reserved for large stones in the kidney, this is a procedure where a small hole is made through the back into the kidney. The stone is broken up and suctioned out of the kidney.

Patients who have one kidney stone episode have a 50% chance of making another stone in 5 years. It is therefore important to try and prevent stone recurrences.

Prevention strategies

  • Patients who make stones should aim to make 2-3L of urine per day by increasing their fluid intake
  • Decrease animal protein consumption
  • Increase fruits and vegetables
  • Minimize salt in the diet
  • Consider a metabolic evaluation

This involves blood and urine tests to try to determine the reason you are making stones. Your doctor may recommend an evaluation if you have made many stones in the past, have a certain stone composition, or are young.

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