Kidney Stones | Urology | Loyola Medicine

Kidney Stones

Overview and Facts about Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hardened deposits of minerals, salts, and other natural substances that develop inside the kidneys. While some stones remain inside the kidneys, others can pass from the kidney into the bladder or urethra, affecting many parts of your urinary tract. Passing kidney stones usually does not cause any physical damage, but if the stones become lodged in your urinary tract, you may need surgery to remove them.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones still located inside the kidneys may not cause any symptoms, but as the stones begin to move, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain that comes and goes
  • Pain when urinating
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Cloudy, pink, or red urine
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you develop an infection due to your kidney stone, you may experience fever, chills, or a general feeling of malaise.

Symptoms can vary depending on the location of the stone. As the stone moves through your urinary tract, you may experience pain in different parts of the body. The pain may lessen or worsen alternately.

Causes and Risk Factors of Kidney Stones

The cause of kidney stones may not be clear-cut, but stones often occur when substances in the urine are not adequately diluted. When urine becomes concentrated, these substances can crystallize and stick together, forming stones.

Poor hydration, certain urology conditions, and holding your urine for long periods may increase your risk of kidney stones. Additionally, some people may just be more prone to kidney stones than others.

Risk factors for kidney stones include:

  • Dehydration
  • High-sodium diets
  • High-protein diets
  • Obesity
  • Family or personal history

Tests and Diagnosis of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are often diagnosed through imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds. Your doctor may also order a variety of blood and urine tests to check your kidney function.

Some people may experience "silent" kidney stones that occur without symptoms. Such stones are often diagnosed during an imaging test for a different medical problem.

Depending on the size and location of the kidney stone, your doctor may recommend immediate treatment or watchful waiting. Not all kidney stones cause severe pain or infection. Your doctor can help you determine whether your kidney stones need treatment.

Treatment and Care for Kidney Stones

Many kidney stones will eventually pass on their own, although this process may be painful. Your doctor may recommend a variety of anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers to make passing the stone more comfortable.

If your kidney stones don't pass on their own, you may need surgery to remove your kidney stones. Your doctor may perform a procedure known as ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy. This treatment uses a small telescope that is placed into the kidney where the stone is stuck and small lasers are used to break up the kidney stones and remove them for sampling.