Everything You Should Know About Kidney Stones
Kidney stones or nephrolithiasis is a common health problem in the United States. Read on to find out what kidney stones are, why they appear, how to prevent them, and how to treat them.
What are kidney stones?
A kidney stone is a solid mass of tiny crystals that forms in one or both of your kidneys when the levels of certain minerals in your urine are high. Another name for it is nephrolithiasis.
Kidney stones can have different sizes, colors, and shapes. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.1
Your body may eliminate small kidney stones on its own without causing pain. However, larger kidney stones may get stuck along the urinary tract and block urine flow, which can cause significant discomfort.1
Types of kidney stones
The principal types of kidney stones are:1
- Calcium stones: calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate are the most common types. They form when extra calcium from the bones and muscles isn’t eliminated through the urine. It stays in the kidneys and creates a stone there.
- Uric acid stones: they usually form when the urine is too acid (low pH).
- Struvite stones: may appear following a urinary tract infection (UTI).
- Cystine stones: typically occur in people with cystinuria, a genetic condition.
Why do people have kidney stones?
Kidney stones are pretty common – around 11% of men and 6% of women in the U.S. will have it at least once during their lifetime.1
Certain characteristics increase the risk of having kidney stones, for example:1
- Male sex
- Family history of kidney stones
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Medical conditions like cystic kidney disease, inflammation of the bowel, digestive problems, gout, obesity, and recurrent UTIs.
- Taking medications like some diuretics and antacids.
How can you prevent kidney stones?
The best way to prevent kidney stones is to stay hydrated – drink at least 2 to 3 liters of fluids per day. You should also avoid eating too much salt.2
Keep an eye on your urine color. If it’s too dark, it means it’s concentrated, contributing to kidney stones.2
Also, depending on the type of kidney stones you have, your doctor may suggest you cut down on some foods or give you medicines to prevent future kidney stones.2
How do you treat kidney stones?
Your physician will suggest a treatment based on the stone’s location, size, and type. As we discussed, small stones may not require treatment. Your doctor will probably recommend that you drink plenty of water and try to eliminate it on your own.3
Larger stones may block your urinary tract and cause a lot of pain. Other possible symptoms are bleeding, nausea, and dehydration. In this case, kidney stones can be removed through:3
- Shock wave lithotripsy: it involves breaking the kidney stone into several smaller pieces so that they can pass through the urinary tract. This procedure takes place at the doctor’s office. 3
- Ureteroscopy: in the hospital and with the patient under anesthesia, the doctor uses a special camera to look inside the ureters and kidneys and find the stones. Once the stone is found, the doctor removes it or breaks it into several pieces. 3
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: in the hospital and with the patient under anesthesia, the doctor makes a small cut in your back and uses a viewing tool to find and remove the kidney stone. You may need to stay in the hospital for a few days after the procedure. 3
After these procedures, some care will still be needed, so following your doctor's recommendations is vital.3
Preventive Stone Evaluation & Workup
Kidney360 physicians are focused on the metabolic workup for the prevention and treatment of kidney stones. Comprehensive laboratory - blood and urine studies will be ordered after a thorough history and physical.
For any signs of questions regarding kidney stones, call the Kidney360 office to schedule an appointment or book one online today.
- Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones. NIH, 2017. Available: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones/definition-facts#what.Access: 04/25/2022.
- Prevention Kidney Stones. NHS, 2019. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-stones/prevention/. Access: 04/25/2022.
- Treatment for Kidney Stones. NIH, 2017. Available: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones/treatment. Access: 04/25/2022.
Uday Khosla, MD
Uday M. Khosla, MD, is board certified in nephrology and hypertension and has served as a Houston kidney consultant since 2004. He currently practices as a renal specialist at Kidney360 - a nephrology practice located in Houston, TX serving the greater Katy, Sugar Land, Channelview, Pearland, Montrose, Downtown Houston, and Spring areas. Dr. Khosla is available as a kidney consultant in various settings, including in-hospital, outpatient clinics, outpatient dialysis, and home care.