A kidney stone is a solid mass made up of tiny crystals. One or more stones can be in the kidney or ureter at the same time.
Renal calculi; Nephrolithiasis; Stones - kidney; Calcium oxalate - stones; Cystine - stones; Struvite - stones; Uric acid - stones; Urinary lithiasis
Kidney stones are common. Some types run in families. They often occur in premature infants.
There are different types of kidney stones. The cause of the problem depends on the type of stone.
Stones can form when urine contains too much of certain substances that form crystals. These crystals can develop into stones over weeks or months.
Calcium stones can also form from combining with phosphate or carbonate.
Other types of stones include:
The biggest risk factor for kidney stones is not drinking enough fluids. Kidney stones are more likely to occur if you make less than 1 liter (32 ounces) of urine a day.
You may not have symptoms until the stones move down the tubes (ureters) through which urine empties into your bladder. When this happens, the stones can block the flow of urine out of the kidneys.
The main symptom is severe pain that starts and stops suddenly:
Other symptoms can include:
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. The belly area (abdomen) or back might feel sore.
Tests that may be done include:
Stones or a blockage can be seen on:
Treatment depends on the type of stone and the severity of your symptoms.
Kidney stones that are small most often pass through your system on their own.
Some people with severe pain from kidney stones need to stay in the hospital. You may need to get fluids through an IV into your vein.
For some types of stones, your provider may prescribe medicine to prevent stones from forming or help break down and remove the material that is causing the stone. These medicines can include:
Surgery is often needed if:
Today, most treatments are much less invasive than in the past.
Talk to your provider about what treatment options may work for you.
You will need to take self-care steps. Which steps you take depend on the type of stone you have, but they may include:
Kidney stones are painful but most of the time can be removed from the body without causing lasting damage.
Kidney stones often come back. This occurs more often if the cause is not found and treated.
You are at risk for:
Complication of kidney stones may include the obstruction of the ureter (acute unilateral obstructive uropathy).
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have symptoms of a kidney stone:
If you have been diagnosed with blockage from a stone, passage must be confirmed either by capture in a strainer during urination or by follow-up x-ray. Being pain free does not confirm that the stone has passed.
If you have a history of stones:
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Lipkin ME, Ferrandino MN, Preminger GM. Evaluation and medical management of urinary lithiasis. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 52.
NICE Guideline - Renal and ureteric stones: assessment and management: NICE (2019) Renal and ureteric stones: assessment and management. BJU Int. 2019;123(2):220-232. PMID: 30656839 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30656839.
Pearle MS, Goldfarb DS, Assimos DG, et al. Medical management of kidney stones: AUA guideline. J Urol. 2014;192(2):316-324. PMID: 24857648 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24857648.
Qaseem A, Dallas P, Forciea MA, Starkey M, Denberg TD; Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Dietary and pharmacologic management to prevent recurrent nephrolithiasis in adults: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(9):659-667. PMID: 25364887 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25364887.
Review Date: 3/5/2018
Reviewed By: Jennifer Sobol, DO, urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Internal review and update on 01/24/2020 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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