What is a kidney stone?
Your kidneys remove extra water and waste from your blood and make urine. A kidney stone is a solid mass made up of substances that separate from the urine and form crystals in your kidney that gradually get larger. Most kidney stones travel through the urinary tract without being noticed. But if they become too big they can get stuck, block the flow of urine, cause extreme pain, and possibly cause kidney damage.
Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a pearl; some are smooth and some are jagged. The type you have will determine the treatment you need. Calcium is one substance that makes up the most common type of kidney stones.
How will I know if I have a kidney stone?
Many people have kidney stones and never know it. If a stone becomes too big to pass in your urine, however, the most common symptom is a sharp, cramping pain in your side, between your ribs and your hips, or in your lower abdomen. You may also see blood in your urine (your urine will look pink or reddish) or see tiny, gravel-like stones in your urine. You may feel nauseated or start vomiting, feel pain when you urinate, or feel an urgent need to urinate.
If you also have a urinary tract infection along with kidney stones, you may also have fever and chills.
Based on your signs and symptoms, your healthcare provider may order a computed tomography (CT) scan or ultrasound to look for kidney stones. You may also be asked to collect your urine for 24 hours. Blood and urine tests will be done to help your healthcare provider find out what type of kidney stone you have.
How are kidney stones treated?
The treatment you'll receive depends on the size, type, and location of your kidney stone. If the stone is small and the pain is tolerable, you can treat it at home by drinking lots of water and taking nonprescription pain medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen as you wait for the stone to pass.
If the stone is too big to pass and is causing a lot of pain, your healthcare provider may suggest a special procedure that's done in a hospital to remove the stone.
If you also have a urinary tract infection along with a kidney stone, your healthcare provider will prescribe an antibiotic. Having an infection along with a kidney stone can be life threatening, so it's important to treat the infection as well as the kidney stone.
What can I do to avoid getting another kidney stone?
Depending on the type of stone you had, your healthcare provider may give you medicine to stop stones from forming. He or she may also recommend that you eat more of certain foods or cut back on others.
No matter what kind of stone you had, drinking more fluids every day is important. Water is best but other fluids can help, too. Your healthcare provider can advise you on how much fluid you should drink each day to help flush away the substances that form kidney stones.
National Institutes of Health, National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Diet for kidney stone prevention. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/kidneystonediet/index.aspx.
National Institutes of Health, National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Kidney stones in adults. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults.
National Institutes of Health, National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. What I need to know about kidney stones. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/stones_ez.