Kidney stones: Causes, symptoms, and treatment (2022)

Kidney stones develop when dissolved minerals build up inside the kidneys. A low fluid consumption, dietary factors, and a person’s medical history may contribute to their development.

Kidney stones may be small and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract, but some grow to the size of a golf ball. Larger stones can cause severe pain as they leave the body.

Without treatment, kidney stones can lead to urinary problems, infections, and kidney damage.

Kidney stones are a common problem in the United States, and the incidence appears to be growing. Dietary factors and climate change may contribute to this increase, according to one study.

In this article, we look at how to recognize kidney stones and explain what to do if they occur.

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Kidney stones do not always cause symptoms. A person may pass very small stones out of the body in the urine without being aware of them.

When symptoms appear, they commonly include:

  • pain in the groin, the side of the abdomen, or both
  • blood in the urine
  • vomiting and nausea
  • a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • fever and chills, if there is an infection
  • an increased need to urinate

If kidney stones block the passage of urine, a kidney infection may result. The symptoms include:

  • a fever and chills
  • weakness and fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • cloudy, foul-smelling urine

If a person has any of these symptoms, they should seek medical help at once.

Learn more about the early signs and symptoms of kidney stones.

Complications

When kidney stones remain inside the body, complications can develop.

If they block the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder, urine will not be able to pass out of the body. This dysfunction increases the risk of a UTI or kidney infection.

(Video) Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention | Mass General Brigham

If recurring kidney stones cause blockages in the urinary system, this can increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.

About 50% of people who have had a kidney stone develop another one within 5–7 years.

There are four different types of stone: calcium, uric acid, struvite, and cystine.

Calcium stones form when the kidneys retain the excess calcium that the muscles and bones do not use, rather than flushing it out of the body. The calcium combines with other waste products to form crystals, such as calcium oxalate, which clump together to make a stone.

Uric acid stones result from a lack of water in the body. Urine contains uric acid. When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, the urine becomes more acidic.

Struvite stones can form after a UTI. They consist of magnesium and ammonia.

Cystine stones develop when cystine, a substance present in the muscles, builds up in urine. These are rare.

The American Urological Association say that people who are susceptible to kidney stones should consume enough fluid to produce 2.5 liters (l), or about 85 ounces (oz), of urine each day. On average, this means consuming close to 3 l, or about 100 oz, of fluid a day. Not all of this needs to come from water.

Risk factors

Apart from dehydration, factors that increase the risk of kidney stones include:

  • a family or personal history of kidney stones
  • being aged 40 years or older, although they can sometimes affect children
  • sex, as they are more common in males than females
  • a diet that is high in protein and sodium
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • pregnancy
  • recent surgery on the digestive system
  • health conditions that affect how the body absorbs calcium, such as inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrhea

Various medications, such as allopurinol (Zyloprim) and topiramate (Topamax), can also increase the risk. People should check with their doctor if they have concerns about any medications they are taking.

Diagnosis

(Video) Kidney Stones: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Various tests can show whether a kidney stone is present.

  • A physical examination may identify the kidneys as the source of pain.
  • Urinalysis can reveal blood in the urine or signs of an infection.
  • Blood tests can help identify complications.
  • Imaging tests, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, will reveal any structural changes.

Imaging tests can help doctors determine:

  • whether a stone is present
  • the size and location of any stones
  • whether there are any blockages
  • the condition of the urinary tract
  • whether complications have affected other organs

During pregnancy, an ultrasound is preferable to a CT scan, as it does not involve radiation.

Here, find out what kidney stones look like.

Treatment will focus on managing symptoms and removing the stone. There are various ways to do this.

Treatment may involve:

  • a high intake of fluids by mouth or intravenously
  • pain relief medication
  • medications to help speed up the passage of stones

How long do kidney stones take to pass?

Large stones

Large stones may need other types of intervention, such as shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), ureteroscopy, or percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL).

SWL involves the use of ultrasound waves to break the stone into smaller pieces to make it easier to pass.

If a doctor opts to use ureteroscopy, they will pass a long, thin tube through the person’s urethra as far as the ureter, which connects the bladder and the kidney. They will then use laser energy to break up the stone.

PCNL involves passing a long, thin instrument through the back and into the kidney, where it can break up or remove the stone using laser energy. This procedure requires general anesthesia.

There may be a risk of complications, such as an infection, after removing a large kidney stone. A doctor should explain the possible complications beforehand so that if any develop, a person can recognize the signs.

A person can usually treat small kidney stones at home.

A doctor may recommend:

  • drinking plenty of fluid and waiting for the stone to pass
  • using over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain and nausea
  • taking alpha-blockers to help the stone pass more quickly
  • avoiding salt and sodas

They may advise the person to continue to drink plenty of fluid after the stones have gone to prevent new ones from forming.

(Video) Kidney Stones Symptoms and Treatments

Some foods may benefit kidney health and help reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Herbs and spices

Guidelines from the American Family Physician (AFP) note that people have long used herbal remedies for kidney stones. However, there is uncertainty regarding their safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with other drugs.

The AFP add, though, that:

  • phytonutrients in green tea, berries, and turmeric may help prevent infection
  • parsley may boost urine production
  • Agropyron repens (couch grass) may help flush out the urinary tract

Proponents of natural remedies note that other foods and supplements that may help protect the kidneys include:

  • basil
  • celery
  • apples
  • grapes
  • pomegranates
  • vitamin B6 supplements
  • pyridoxine supplements

Some research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is common among people with kidney stones, but there is not enough evidence to show that vitamin D supplements are safe or effective for preventing stones.

Do kidney beans help?

Some people drink kidney bean broth to help the stones pass.

People can make the broth by boiling the pods inside the beans for about 6 hours and then straining them. Once the liquid has cooled, they can consume some every 2 hours for 1–2 days.

However, it is important to note that there is no scientific evidence to confirm that this is effective.

(Video) Kidney stones — Symptoms, treatment and prevention

Foods to avoid

Limiting foods that contain the following substances may help prevent stones from developing:

  • protein
  • oxalate
  • sodium (salt)
  • sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup
  • vitamin C supplements

Oxalate is present in many common foods, such as:

  • nuts
  • rhubarb
  • beets
  • miso
  • tahini
  • Swiss chard

However, people should not completely avoid foods containing oxalates, calcium, and protein, as they can have other nutritional benefits.

Learn more about the kidney stone diet.

Kidney stones are not always preventable, but experts recommend that people reduce the overall risk by:

  • drinking at least 2 l of water each day
  • following a healthful diet
  • doing regular exercise

For those with a higher risk of developing kidney stones, a doctor may make dietary recommendations or prescribe medication.

Get more tips on preventing kidney stones.

Kidney stones are a common problem. Not drinking enough fluid is a major causative factor, but dietary habits, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute.

Anyone who has symptoms of a kidney stone, urine infection, or kidney infection should seek medical advice to prevent complications from developing.

FAQs

How kidney stones are caused? ›

Possible causes include drinking too little water, exercise (too much or too little), obesity, weight loss surgery, or eating food with too much salt or sugar. Infections and family history might be important in some people. Eating too much fructose correlates with increasing risk of developing a kidney stone.

What is kidney stone answer? ›

Kidney stones are hard objects, made up of millions of tiny crystals. Most kidney stones form on the interior surface of the kidney, where urine leaves the kidney tissue and enters the urinary collecting system. Kidney stones can be small, like a tiny pebble or grain of sand, but are often much larger.

Which is the best treatment for kidney stones? ›

Treatment
  • Drinking water. Drinking as much as 2 to 3 quarts (1.8 to 3.6 liters) a day will keep your urine dilute and may prevent stones from forming. ...
  • Pain relievers. Passing a small stone can cause some discomfort. ...
  • Medical therapy. Your doctor may give you a medication to help pass your kidney stone.
3 Jun 2022

What food causes kidney stones? ›

Avoid stone-forming foods: Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, which can contribute to kidney stones. If you suffer from stones, your doctor may advise you to avoid these foods or to consume them in smaller amounts.

What drinks cause kidney stones? ›

Dark cola beverages, artificial fruit punch, and sweet tea are the top drinks that contribute to kidney stones. This is because these beverages contain higher amounts of fructose or phosphoric acid, which are ultimately known to contribute to kidney stones.

What are the first signs of kidney disease? ›

Symptoms
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Urinating more or less.
  • Decreased mental sharpness.
  • Muscle cramps.
3 Sept 2021

How long do kidney stones last? ›

A stone can remain in the kidney for years or decades without causing any symptoms or damage to the kidney. Typically, the stone will eventually move through the urinary tract (figure 1) and is passed out of the body in the urine. A stone may cause pain if it becomes stuck and blocks the flow of urine.

Can stress cause kidney stones? ›

Can stress cause kidney stones? Especially when combined with chronic dehydration, stress can trigger the formation of kidney stones. Stress overall can affect your kidneys. Stress can result in high blood pressure and high blood sugar, which can both affect the health of your heart and the kidneys.

How do you treat stones? ›

Here's our process.
  1. Staying hydrated is key. Drinking plenty of fluids is a vital part of passing kidney stones and preventing new stones from forming. ...
  2. Water. ...
  3. Lemon juice. ...
  4. Basil juice. ...
  5. Apple cider vinegar. ...
  6. Celery juice. ...
  7. Pomegranate juice. ...
  8. Kidney bean broth.

What is a kidney stone called? ›

Do kidney stones have another name? The scientific name for a kidney stone is renal calculus or nephrolith. You may hear health care professionals call this condition nephrolithiasis, urolithiasis, or urinary stones.

What are 5 symptoms of having kidney stones? ›

Symptoms & Causes of Kidney Stones
  • sharp pains in your back, side, lower abdomen, or groin.
  • pink, red, or brown blood in your urine, also called hematuria.
  • a constant need to urinate.
  • pain while urinating.
  • inability to urinate or can only urinate a small amount.
  • cloudy or bad-smelling urine.

What are 3 treatments for kidney stones? ›

If you've been diagnosed with kidney stones (urolithiasis), you may have several options for treatment. These include medical therapy, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), percutaneous nephrolithotripsy (PCNL), and ureteroscopy.

What are 3 treatment options for kidney stones? ›

Kidney Stone Treatment Options
  • Non-invasive extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). ESWL involves the use of sound waves to crush the kidney stone into smaller pieces so they can more easily pass into the bladder.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL). ...
  • Ureteroscopy (URS). ...
  • Pyelolithotomy.

What is the first line treatment for kidney stones? ›

Potassium citrate is recommended as the first-line treatment to neutralize the urine alongside increasing fluid intake (AUA: Expert opinion, EAU: Strong recommendation).

Is Egg good for kidney stones? ›

Limit beef, pork, eggs, cheese, and fish, because they may raise your chances of most types of kidney stones. Vitamin C. Too much can make your body produce oxalate. So don't take more than 500 mg a day.

Which fruit is good for kidney stone? ›

Citrus fruit, and their juice, can help reduce or block the formation of stones due to naturally occurring citrate. Good sources of citrus include lemons, oranges, and grapefruit.

Are bananas good for kidney stones? ›

Eating foods rich in potassium helps prevent kidney stones from forming. Some foods that are high in potassium are bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, orange juice and papaya.

Is milk good for kidney stones? ›

Eat and drink calcium foods such as milk, yogurt, and some cheese and oxalate-rich foods together during a meal. The oxalate and calcium from the foods are more likely to bind to one another in the stomach and intestines before entering the kidneys. This will make it less likely that kidney stones will form.

Can milk cause kidney stones? ›

Contrary to popular belief, milk consumption does not lead to the development of kidney stones, and in fact, drinking milk is associated with lower rates of stone formation.

What vegetables are good for kidney stones? ›

Stick to vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, kale, cabbage, and lettuce. These vegetables do not contain oxalates and can help you decrease the risk of kidney stones.

What is harmful to kidneys? ›

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common risk factors for kidney disease. However, obesity, smoking, genetics, gender, and age can also increase the risk ( 3 ). Uncontrolled blood sugar and high blood pressure cause damage to blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to function optimally ( 4 ).

How can I check my kidney at home? ›

4 Best At-home Kidney Test Kits
  1. Best blood sample test: LetsGetChecked Kidney Test.
  2. Best blood test for detailed results: Verisana Kidney Function Test.
  3. Best urine-based test: Healthy.io Minuteful Kidney.
  4. Best combination kit: Labcorp OnDemand Kidney Health Test Package.
21 Mar 2022

What can damage kidneys? ›

10 Common Habits That May Harm Your Kidneys
  • Overusing Painkillers. ...
  • Eating Processed Foods. ...
  • Not Drinking Enough Water. ...
  • Missing Out on Sleep. ...
  • Eating Too Much Meat. ...
  • Eating Too Many Foods High in Sugar. ...
  • Lighting Up. ...
  • Drinking Alcohol in Excess.
27 Jun 2016

How can I remove kidney stones without surgery? ›

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a technique for treating stones in the kidney and ureter that does not require surgery. Instead, high energy shock waves are passed through the body and used to break stones into pieces as small as grains of sand.

What is the fastest way to dissolve a kidney stone? ›

What Dissolves Kidney Stones Fast? Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which helps dissolve kidney stones. In addition to flushing out the kidneys, apple cider vinegar can also decrease any pain caused by the stones. In addition, water and lemon juice can help flush the stones and prevent future kidney stones.

How do you stop kidney stone pain? ›

Over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve), can help you endure the discomfort until the stones pass. Your doctor also may prescribe an alpha blocker, which relaxes the muscles in your ureter and helps pass stones quicker and with less pain.

Can lack of sleep cause kidney stones? ›

Then, the sleep di culty group had a 1.49-fold increased risk of kidney stone (95% CI:1.23–1.80, P < 0.0001). However, insu cient (< 7 Hours/Night) sleep seems not to be associated with kidney stone (OR=1.08, 95%CI: 0.90-1.29, P=0.3992).

How serious is a kidney stone? ›

Kidney stones are usually found in the kidneys or in the ureter, the tube that connects the kidneys to your bladder. They can be extremely painful, and can lead to kidney infections or the kidney not working properly if left untreated.

How fast do kidney stones grow? ›

2. They don't form overnight. Kidney stones don't just appear out of nowhere. In fact, they can start to form in your kidneys for months – even years before you ever suspect anything or experience symptoms.

What is good for kidney health? ›

Choose foods that are healthy for your heart and your entire body: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Eat healthy meals, and cut back on salt and added sugars. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.

WHO removes kidney stones? ›

A urologist can remove the kidney stone or break it into small pieces with the following treatments: Shock wave lithotripsy. The doctor can use shock wave lithotripsy link to blast the kidney stone into small pieces. The smaller pieces of the kidney stone then pass through your urinary tract.

Do kidney stones require surgery? ›

The larger a stone is, the less likely that it will pass without surgery. Surgical treatment is usually recommended for stones 0.5 centimeters in size and larger, as well as for patients who fail conservative management. The procedures used today to remove stones are minimally invasive and highly effective.

Are my kidneys infected? ›

Symptoms of a kidney infection often come on within a few hours. You can feel feverish, shivery, sick and have a pain in your back or side. In addition to feeling unwell like this, you may also have symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) such as cystitis.

Can coffee cause kidney stones? ›

Excessive caffeine

Too much caffeine can cause a range of health problems, including kidney stones. Excessive intake of coffee, tea and soda can stress out the kidneys, leading to higher calcium levels in the urine.

Can kidney stones cause kidney failure? ›

Kidney stones are solid crystals formed from the salts in urine. They are sometimes called renal calculi. Kidney stones can block the flow of urine and cause infection, kidney damage or even kidney failure.

Does tea cause kidney stones? ›

The answer is yes and it's time to limit your consumption. Drinking too much of tea can cause kidney stones and even damage your liver because of its high concentration of oxalate.

Which food should be avoided for kidney stone? ›

If you've had calcium oxalate stones, you may want to avoid these foods to help reduce the amount of oxalate in your urine:
  • nuts and nut products.
  • peanuts—which are legumes, not nuts, and are high in oxalate.
  • rhubarb.
  • spinach.
  • wheat bran.

How do doctors remove kidney stones? ›

If the stone is small, it may be snared with a basket device and removed whole from the ureter. If the stone is large, or if the diameter of the ureter is narrow, the stone will need to be fragmented, which is usually accomplished with a laser. Once the stone is broken into tiny pieces, these pieces are removed.

Which antibiotic is best for kidney stone infection? ›

Commonly used antibiotics for kidney infections include ciprofloxacin, cefalexin, co-amoxiclav or trimethoprim. Painkillers such as paracetamol can ease pain and reduce a high temperature (fever). Stronger painkillers may be needed if the pain is more severe.

Is there a blood test for kidney stones? ›

Blood tests can also measure several minerals, known as electrolytes, that can be related to the formation of kidney stones. Commonly used blood tests for kidney stone diagnosis are the basic metabolic panel (BMP) or the comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) and the uric acid test.

How does your body feel when you have kidney stones? ›

Kidney stone symptoms include: Sharp pain in the lower abdomen, typically on one side. A burning sensation or pain while urinating. Urinating frequently.

How can you test for kidney stones at home? ›

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have a kidney stone present in your urinary tract:
  1. Severe pain in the back, side, or below the ribs.
  2. Pain that travels to the lower abdomen or groin area.
  3. Pain when urinating.
  4. Pink, red, brown urine coloring.
  5. Cloudy or bad-smelling urine.
  6. Nausea and vomiting.

Can kidney stones make you tired? ›

chills and shivering. feeling very weak or tired. diarrhoea. cloudy and bad-smelling urine.

Can kidney stones affect bowel movements? ›

You might experience burning sensations while urinating, or notice blood in your urine. Other symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, profuse sweating, and diarrhea or constipation.

What is the fastest way to relieve kidney stone pain? ›

Over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve), can help you endure the discomfort until the stones pass. Your doctor also may prescribe an alpha blocker, which relaxes the muscles in your ureter and helps pass stones quicker and with less pain.

Do kidney stones make you pee a lot? ›

In some cases, a person with a kidney stone may notice symptoms similar to those of a urinary tract infection (UTI). These include: more frequent urination or urges to urinate. pain or discomfort during urination.

Do kidney stones cause gas? ›

Look for these telltale symptoms of a kidney stone. Severe, sharp pain in your groin, back, or side. It may begin slowly, just feeling like gas pains, upset stomach, or menstrual cramps.

Can kidney stones affect sleep? ›

The circadian rhythms and kidney function

However, when we experience poor kidney health, this rejuvenation of the blood doesn't result in efficient waste filtration by the organs. This can lead to sleep problems.

Where on body is kidney pain? ›

You feel kidney pain in the area where your kidneys are located: Near the middle of your back, just under your ribcage, on each side of your spine. Your kidneys are part of the urinary tract, the organs that make urine (i.e., pee) and remove it from your body.

How can you reduce the risk of kidney stones? ›

The best way to prevent kidney stones is to make sure you drink plenty of water each day to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • drink water, but drinks like tea and coffee also count.
  • add fresh lemon juice to your water.
  • avoid fizzy drinks.
  • do not eat too much salt.

Videos

1. Kidney stones - Diagnosis and Treatment
(Crossing Rivers Health)
2. Treating Kidney Stones | Ask a Doc
(SMHCS)
3. Kidney Stones (Nephrolithiasis) Signs & Symptoms | & Why They Occur
(JJ Medicine)
4. Kidney stones causes, symptoms and treatment
(Shomu's Biology)
5. Kidney Stones 101: Causes, Symptoms & Remedies – Dr.Berg
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
6. Urinary/Kidney Stones - Overview (signs and symptoms, risk factors, pathophysiology, treatment)
(Armando Hasudungan)

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