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Stones

Kidney or bladder stones are made of salts and minerals in the urine that stick together to form small “rocks”. They can be as small as grains of sand or as large as golf balls. They may stay in your kidneys or travel out of your body through the urinary tract. The urinary tract is the system that makes urine and carries it out of your body. It is made up of the kidneys, the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters), the bladder, and the tube that leads from the bladder out of the body (the urethra).

When a stone travels through a ureter, it may cause no pain. Or it may cause great pain and other symptoms*.  

You may first find out that you have kidney stones when you see your doctor or go to an emergency room with pain in your groin, belly or side. Your doctor will ask you a series of questions in order to help him or her diagnose your condition. He or she will conduct a physical examine and may do imaging tests such as an ultrasound to look at your kidneys and urinary tract.



If you have a family history or if your doctor determines that you have more than one stone, he or she may conduct additional tests. Your doctor may order a blood test and ask you to collect your urine for 24 hours in order to help him or her find out why you are getting stones. This information may help determine if you will get stones in the future and possibly help you avoid them all together.

Kidney stones may not cause any pain. If this is the case, you may learn you have them when your doctor finds them during a test for another disease.

Symptoms

Kidney stones are formed inside the kidney from when the normal balance of water, salts, minerals, and other substances found in urine changes. How this balance changes determines the type of kidney stone you have. Most kidney stones are calcium-type—they form when the calcium levels in your urine change. Some other types include: Struvite, Uric Acid, and Cystine

        When to See Your Physician:

  • Severe pain in your side, belly, or groin
  • Blood in Urine
  • You may also feel sick to your stomach (nausea) and may vomit.

    Types of Stones

    Kidney stones are formed inside the kidney from when the normal balance of water, salts, minerals, and other substances found in urine changes. How this balance changes determines the type of kidney stone you have. Most kidney stones are calcium-type—they form when the calcium levels in your urine change. Some other types include: Struvite, Uric Acid, and Cystine.

    • Bladder stones are similar to kidney stones; however, they are formed inside the bladder. Typically they are caused when urine stagnates in the bladder due to a medical condition, such as, bladder infections, BPH, or others.

    • Calcium-Oxalate Stones: These are the most common kidney stones. They can be caused by eating too much calcium or vitamin D, some medicines, genetics and other kidney problems. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop these stones from forming. Do not limit calcium.

    • Struvite Stones: These stones affect women more than men. They can grow to be very large and harm the kidneys more than other stones. Having kidney infections often may cause struvite stones.

    • Uric Acid Stones: These stones may be caused by eating too much animal protein or by genetics. To stop uric acid stones, try eating less red meat.

    • Cystine Stones: These stones are very rare. They are caused by cystinuria, a genetic kidney disease.

    Couses/Risk Factors

    Stones may form when the normal balance of water, salts, minerals, and other substances found in urine changes or from diseases such as BPH. How this balance changes determines the type of Stone you have. Most stones are calcium-type-they form when the calcium levels in your urine change.

    Factors that change your urine balance include:

    • Not drinking enough water: Try to drink enough water to keep your urine clear (about 8 to 10 glasses of water a day). When you don’t drink enough water, the salts, minerals, and other substances in the urine can stick together and form a stone. This is the most common cause of kidney stones.

    • Medical conditions: Many medical conditions can affect the normal balance and cause stones to form. Gout is one example. Also, people who have inflammatory bowel disease or who have had surgery on their intestines may not absorb fat from their intestines in a normal way. This changes the way the intestines process calcium and other minerals, and it may lead to kidney stones.

    • Infection: Bladder infections may lead to bladder stones as urine as a result of stagnating urine.

    More commonly, kidney stones can run in families, as they often occur in family members over several generations.


    Treatment Options

    Depending on the size of the stone your doctor will suggest treatment options ranging from home remedies such as, drinking additional water (about 8-10 glasses a day to keep urine clear), from medication to invasive surgical intervention (approximately 1 or 2 out of every 10 kidney stone will need interventional treatment)

    1. Your doctor can advise you on which procedure is best for your type of stone. One of the common surgical interventional treatments is holmium laser lithotripsy. Learn more about PowerSuite holmium laser lithotripsy treatment.

    Non-Invasive Procedures

    Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL): uses shock waves to break a kidney stone into small pieces that can more easily travel through the urinary tract and pass from the body. This treatment options often times requires multiple treatments to fully treat the stone, only targets smaller stones of certain types.

    Minimally-Invasive Surgical

    PowerSuite Holmium Laser Lithotripsy: a treatment option that uses a small laser fiber to be snaked up the ureter to the stone, the stone is ablated (broken into small pieces) and then the small remnants are suctioned away. The advantage of VersaPulse Holmium laser lithotripsy over other basic endoscopic treatments that do not first break up the stone is less stone movement and less bleeding during treatment.

    Invasive Surgical

    Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): This method is often used on kidney stones larger than 2 centimeters in size or for hard stones. General anesthesia is required. A small incision is made in the back and a telescope (called nephroscope) is passed directly into the kidney. Direct fragmentation of the stone is performed using an ultrasonic, electrohydraulic, or laser device through the nephroscope under direct vision.


    FAQ

    Kidney stones are made of salts and minerals in the urine that stick together to form small “pebbles.”

    They can be as small as grains of sand or as large as golf balls. They may stay in your kidneys or travel out of your body through the urinary tract. The urinary tract is the system that makes urine and carries it out of your body. It is made up of the kidneys, the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters), the bladder, and the tube that leads from the bladder out of the body (the urethra).

    When a stone travels through a ureter, it may cause no pain. Or it may cause great pain and other symptoms.

    Kidney stones form when a change occurs in the normal balance of water, salts, minerals, and other things found in urine. The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water. 

    Try to drink enough water to keep your urine clear (about 8 to 10 glasses of water a day). Some people are more likely to get kidney stones because of a medical condition, such as enlarged prostate or if they have a family history.


    It can be especially helpful to drink more water. (The National Institutes of Health recommend drinking up to 12 full glasses of water a day, if you’ve already had a kidney stone.) Water helps to flush away the substances that form stones in the kidneys.

    Depending on the cause of the kidney stones and an individual’s medical history, dietary changes or medications are sometimes recommended to decrease the likelihood of developing further kidney stones.

    It is particularly helpful, if one has passed a stone, to have it analyzed in a laboratory to determine the precise type of stone so specific prevention measures can be considered.