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What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are small, hard crystals or deposits that form inside your kidneys when salts and other minerals in your urine bond together. Stones often vary in shape and size, with some growing to be quite large.  Some stones stay in the kidneys causing little to no symptoms, and others may pass through the urinary tract, causing painful symptoms as the deposit move down the ureter (the thin tube that leads to the bladder). Some people are able to pass the stone without surgical intervention, but in some cases, surgery to remove the stone may be necessary.

Types of Kidney Stones

Types of kidney stones

Image courtesy of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health


Symptoms of Kidney Stones

If painful symptoms persist, it’s important to contact your urologist for diagnosis and immediate treatment. When a kidney stone has passed into the urinary tract, symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain, usually located in the side or the back; pain may spread to the abdomen and the groin area as well
  • Urinary symptoms such as painful urination, urinary urge, and frequent need to urinate
  • Blood in the urine and/or foul-smelling urine
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever if the stone has caused an infection

Who’s at Risk?

While anyone can produce kidney stones, certain people are more at risk of developing stones than others.

Causes and risk factors for kidney stones include:

  • A family history of stone disease, especially in first-degree relatives
  • Dehydration – lack of fluids can cause salts and other minerals in the urine to stick together to cause kidney stones
  • Certain diets – diets high in protein, salt, oxalates (such as spinach, chocolate, nuts), excess vitamin C or D can increase your risk of developing kidney stones
  • Certain medical conditions – gastric conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and chronic diarrhea affect the way your body absorbs water and calcium, which increases levels of stone-forming substances in your urine
  • Metabolic diseases (such as hyperparathyroidism or gout)
  • Obesity has been linked to higher incidences of stone formation
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