About Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are one of the most common urinary disorders. The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and then remove it in the form of urine. When mineral deposits aren’t removed completely, kidney stones can form. 

Stones form in the kidney and either remain there or slowly move down the ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder). They can reach the bladder and pass through the urethra (the tube you urinate through) and leave the body. Small, smooth stones can pass through unnoticed, but larger, rougher stones can be difficult and painful to pass.

Possible causes include:

  • Dehydration
  • Obesity
  • Diet (excess salt/sugar)
  • Some types of surgery
  • Infections
  • Family history

Some kidney stones vary greatly in size, from as small as a grain of rice to the size of a golf ball. The larger stones tend to cause more noticeable symptoms. As the kidney stone causes irritation or blockage, it can rapidly cause extreme pain. Most kidney stones pass on their own, but the pain may require medical attention. In some cases, other treatments may be required, including surgery.

Types of kidney stones

  • Calcium oxalate: The most common type of kidney stone 
  • Uric acid: This is another common type of kidney stone. Sometimes caused by certain diets, these types of stones tend to run in families.
  • Struvite: These stones are less common and are typically caused by infections.
  • Cystine: These stones are rare and are caused by a collection of the amino acid cystine, a condition called cystinuria.


Kidney stone symptoms include:

  • Severe pain in the lower back
  • General pain or stomach discomfort
  • Hematuria (blood in the urine)
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fever/chills
  • Cloudy/strong smelling urine


To determine the exact size and shape of the kidney stones, doctors can use a number of different diagnostic procedures:

  • Computerized tomography (CT scan)- A imaging procedure that combines multiple X-rays to create a cross-section image of your kidneys and surrounding area
  • Renal ultrasound- A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to create an image of the kidney
  • Lab Tests- Doctors may test your urine or blood to determine the nature and cause of your stones
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)- A series of X-rays that use a contrast dye to help view the kidney


Genetics, diet, fluid intake, work environment and even geographic locations are all potential factors that may influence the formation of stones. Patients who are involved in stone prevention have fewer visits to emergency rooms and hospitals, fewer treatments and procedures to remove stones, and spend less time away from work.

If you have had more than one kidney stone, you are likely to form another; so prevention is extremely important.  To prevent stones from forming, we must determine the cause. This is commonly done by stone analysis, blood and urine tests, and 24-hour urine collections. Other causative factors will also be investigated including medical history, medications, occupation, and dietary habits.

Based on these results, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and possible medical therapy may be recommended for the prevention of future stones.

Kidney Stone Treatments

Most kidney stones pass on their own, but in some cases, specific treatment may be required to remove the stone. These include:

  • Open Stone Surgery
  • Percutaneous Nephrostolithotomy (PNL)
  • Robotics/Laparoscopy
  • Shock Wave Lithotripsy
  • Ureteroscopy

Learn More About Kidney Stone Treatments