Frequently Asked Questions about Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can be a “ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies” issue, but the fact remains that it is very important to know the answers to the most frequently asked questions about kidney stones.


Frequently Asked Questions about Kidney Stones

1.       What are kidney stones?

These are small and hard mineral and acid salt deposits that form inside the kidneys. The stones may remain in the kidney where urine cannot wash it away, or travel through the urinary tract; depending on their size they may be secreted with urine more or less unnoticed, or cause a painful back-up of urine in the kidney, ureter, the bladder, or the urethra.

2.       What causes kidney stones?

Kidney stones often occur when urine can’t dilute minerals which then band together and crystallize, either because the urine becomes concentrated with waste or because it lacks chemicals that can prevent from clustering together.

3.       What are the types of kidney stones?

·         Calcium stones.

·         Struvite stones.

·         Uric acid stones.

·         Cystine stones.

·         Other.

4.       What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

  • Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs.
  • Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin.
  • Pain that comes in waves and varies in intensity.
  • Pain while urinating.
  • More vague pain or stomach ache that does not go away.
  • Pink, red or brown urine.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Persistent need to urinate.
  • Urinating more frequently than usual.
  • Fever and chills if an infection is present.
  • Urinating small quantities of urine.

5.       What are the risk factors for kidney stones?

·         Middle age (though they can develop in children as well).

·         Activity level.

·         Personal or family history.

·         Dehydration.

·         Eating a diet high in protein, sodium and sugar.

·         Obesity.

·         Digestive diseases and surgery.

·         Renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism, some urinary tract infections, and other conditions.

·         Certain medications.

6.       What are the possible complications of kidney stones?

·         Increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

·         Increased risk of developing more kidney stones in the future.

7.       How are kidney stones diagnosed?

·         Blood tests.

·         Urine tests.

·         Imaging tests.

8.       How are kidney stones treated?

Small stones

·         Drinking as much as 2-3 quarts of water a day.

·         Pain relievers.

·         Alpha blockers.

Large stones

·         Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy.

·         Percutaneous nephrolithotomy surgery.

·         Parathyroid gland surgery.

·         Ureteroscopic stone removal.

Calcium stones

·         Thiazide diuretics or phosphate-containing preparations.

Uric acid stones

·         Allopurinol.

Struvite stones

·         Long-term use of antibiotics in small doses.

Cystine stones

·         Drinking more fluids.

·         Cystine-reducing medications.

9.       How are kidney stones ejected from the body?

More often than not the stone is secreted with the urine, a process that may last a few days and entail varying degrees of pain. Larger stones that are too big to pass through the urine may be crushed into smaller pieces, or removed with an instrument or surgically. 

10.   How can kidney stones be prevented?

·         Drinking water during the day.

·         Limiting rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, nuts, tea, chocolate, soy products, and other oxalate-rich foods.

·         Reducing salt and animal protein.

·         Using calcium supplements with caution (calcium in food is okay).

·         Losing excess weight.

·         Keeping a healthy weight.


Related: Early symptoms of kidney stones