Frequently Asked Questions Related To Stones


What is a kidney stone?

The human kidneys are paired organs, which are positioned just in front of the 11th and 12th ribs. The kidneys are responsible for filtering water and other substances from the blood. The combination of these filtered substances and water is known as urine. Several of the substances commonly found in urine have the ability to crystallize. These crystals can then bind together to form a kidney stone.

What are the symptoms of a kidney stone?

The most common symptom from a kidney stone is the acute onset of severe flank pain due to the stone moving into a position in the kidney or ureter, which causes a blockage or obstruction of the flow of urine. Kidney stone pain is often associated with low back pain and abdominal pain. Kidney stones, especially those in the left kidney, can also cause significant amounts of nausea and even vomiting. As the stone moves further down the ureter toward the bladder, the pain often radiates in the groin and genital areas. In men, the pain may radiate to the scrotum. In women, the pain may radiate to the labia or even the vagina.

The pain associated with kidney stones often comes in waves. It has been said that kidney stone pain is the worst pain that a man can experience. Many women state that the pain is as bad or worse than labor pain. The amount of pain experienced does not correlate in any way with the size of the kidney stone.

Kidney stones can rub along the lining of the kidney and ureter, which can lead to blood in the urine. In addition, the stone may be associated with urinary frequency and irritation.

Are kidney stones common?

Kidney stones are a relatively common problem. Approximately 350-thousand Americans have new stones each year. Approximately 15% of Americans will develop stones at some point during their lifetime.

Why do stones occur?

There are certain conditions in the urine including those caused by not drinking enough water, that make crystals which can tribute to stone formation. Some patients form stone because of anatomical malformations of the urinary tract, while other patient may have a genetic predisposition, environmental or nutritional risk factors.

What does a kidney stone look like?

Kidney stones can come in many different colors, shapes, textures, and sizes. The color depends on the composition of the stone. Most stones are yellow or brown, however, they can also appear tan, gold or black. The shape of the stone may be round, jagged or branch-like. The stone may be rough or smooth in texture. Finally the size of the stone may vary from specks of sand to pebbles to stones as large as golf balls.

What are the different types of kidney stones?

There are many different types of kidney stones. The vast majority of stones are composed of calcium. The most common types of stones are calcium oxalate (70%), calcium phosphate (5-10%), struvite (10%), uric acid (10%) and cystine (1%). It is not uncommon for a single stone to be made of more than one of these types. When this occurs, the stone is commonly referred to as a mixed stone. Less common types of kidney stones include Xanthine, DHA and crixivan stones.

Can kidney stones damage the kidney?

Kidney stones that block or obstruct the flow of urine within the urinary tract may be responsible for infection or even deterioration of renal function.

Who gets kidney stones?

Patients who are at risk for stone formation include inadequate hydration, dietary practices, stones that run in families, infections, anatomical factors within the urinary tract and metabolic conditions that may promote stone formation.

How do I know if I have a kidney stone?

The size, shape, and location of urinary calculi can cause many different symptoms. Many stones can cause sudden onset of severe pain, bloody urine, obstruction, or infection. Other stones can cause nausea, vomiting, fever or chills and burning with urination. You may experience a "renal colic" attack, which is flank (side) pain associated with a kidney stone.

Do kidney stones form in one or both kidneys?

The majority of renal stones are found in one kidney. However, bilateral renal calculi occur in 10 - 15% of patients. The CT scan, below, shows a stone in each kidney (red arrowheads).


Can you have more than one stone the kidney?

Yes. You can have multiple stones in a single kidney. The KUB, below, shows multiple stones in the right kidney (red arrowhead).


Do all stones require surgery?

No. There are several variables, which affect a person's ability to completely pass a kidney stone. Some stones can pass spontaneously without medical or surgical intervention. The size and the location of the stone are factors that may effect whether a stone will pass spontaneously. Stones that are smaller than 4 mm have a 40-fold greater chance of passing spontaneously than for stones larger than 6 mm, regardless of the location of the stone.

With regard to location, a stone in the distal ureter (close to bladder) compared to a proximal ureteral stone (close to kidney) will spontaneously pass 45% and 12%, respectively.

How do I treat a kidney stone?

There are various treatment options for managing kidney stones. Some stones may be treated with medication. Other stone types may require surgical intervention. Surgical management may include noninvasive surgery, minimally invasive surgery or infrequently, open surgery.

Can kidney stones reoccur?

Patients who have a kidney stone may have another kidney stone in the future. The risk of a patient having a recurrence of a stone can be up to 50% in 5-10 years and 80% in their lifetime.

What can I do to prevent a future kidney stone?

Depending on the type of stone that you have, your doctor may suggest a dietary modification or medication, which may reduce your risk for future stone formation. Speak with your physician.


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