Kidney Stones

Like the name implies, a kidney stone is a hard, pebble-like deposit of salt and minerals that forms in your urine. Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or, on rare occasions, as large as a ping-pong ball.

You may not even know you have a kidney stone if it remains stationary in your kidney. But if it breaks free and begins moving through the ureter to your bladder, it can be extremely painful and even get stuck and cause a blockage.

Common symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Sharp pain in your back, side or belly
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Dark or red urine
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you have sudden, intense pain in your back or abdomen, you should seek medical care quickly.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

Kidney stones may cause pain in your abdomen or your side. Your doctor will do a physical exam and might order tests like an X-ray, CT scan or an ultrasound to look at your kidneys and urinary tract.

How are kidney stones treated?

Most stones are small enough to pass through your urinary tract on their own. If a stone is too large, it may require additional treatment. The most common treatment is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). While it might sound scary, you won’t feel a thing because you’ll likely be under some form of anesthesia.

ESWL uses shock waves to break up kidney stones into tiny pieces that can pass out of your urinary tract on their own.

Can I prevent kidney stones?

If you’ve had kidney stones before, you’re likely to have them again. Drinking plenty of water (about eight to 10 glasses a day) can help prevent them, and you may need to eat less of certain foods. Talk to your doctor about developing an approach that works for you.

Resources

Kidney Stone Symptoms and Treatment options discussed by Mercy's Vincent Olorunnisomo, MD.

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