Kidney stones: Causes, symptoms, and treatment (2023)

Kidney stones develop when dissolved minerals build up inside the kidneys. A low fluid consumption, dietary factors, and a person’s medical history may contribute to their development.

Kidney stones may be small and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract, but some grow to the size of a golf ball. Larger stones can cause severe pain as they leave the body.

Without treatment, kidney stones can lead to urinary problems, infections, and kidney damage.

Kidney stones are a common problem in the United States, and the incidence appears to be growing. Dietary factors and climate change may contribute to this increase, according to one study.

In this article, we look at how to recognize kidney stones and explain what to do if they occur.

Kidney stones: Causes, symptoms, and treatment (1)Share on Pinterest

Kidney stones do not always cause symptoms. A person may pass very small stones out of the body in the urine without being aware of them.

When symptoms appear, they commonly include:

  • pain in the groin, the side of the abdomen, or both
  • blood in the urine
  • vomiting and nausea
  • a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • fever and chills, if there is an infection
  • an increased need to urinate

If kidney stones block the passage of urine, a kidney infection may result. The symptoms include:

  • a fever and chills
  • weakness and fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • cloudy, foul-smelling urine

If a person has any of these symptoms, they should seek medical help at once.

Learn more about the early signs and symptoms of kidney stones.

Complications

When kidney stones remain inside the body, complications can develop.

If they block the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder, urine will not be able to pass out of the body. This dysfunction increases the risk of a UTI or kidney infection.

(Video) Kidney Stones (Nephrolithiasis) Signs & Symptoms | & Why They Occur

If recurring kidney stones cause blockages in the urinary system, this can increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.

About 50% of people who have had a kidney stone develop another one within 5–7 years.

There are four different types of stone: calcium, uric acid, struvite, and cystine.

Calcium stones form when the kidneys retain the excess calcium that the muscles and bones do not use, rather than flushing it out of the body. The calcium combines with other waste products to form crystals, such as calcium oxalate, which clump together to make a stone.

Uric acid stones result from a lack of water in the body. Urine contains uric acid. When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, the urine becomes more acidic.

Struvite stones can form after a UTI. They consist of magnesium and ammonia.

Cystine stones develop when cystine, a substance present in the muscles, builds up in urine. These are rare.

The American Urological Association say that people who are susceptible to kidney stones should consume enough fluid to produce 2.5 liters (l), or about 85 ounces (oz), of urine each day. On average, this means consuming close to 3 l, or about 100 oz, of fluid a day. Not all of this needs to come from water.

Risk factors

Apart from dehydration, factors that increase the risk of kidney stones include:

  • a family or personal history of kidney stones
  • being aged 40 years or older, although they can sometimes affect children
  • sex, as they are more common in males than females
  • a diet that is high in protein and sodium
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • pregnancy
  • recent surgery on the digestive system
  • health conditions that affect how the body absorbs calcium, such as inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrhea

Various medications, such as allopurinol (Zyloprim) and topiramate (Topamax), can also increase the risk. People should check with their doctor if they have concerns about any medications they are taking.

Diagnosis

(Video) Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention | Mass General Brigham

Various tests can show whether a kidney stone is present.

  • A physical examination may identify the kidneys as the source of pain.
  • Urinalysis can reveal blood in the urine or signs of an infection.
  • Blood tests can help identify complications.
  • Imaging tests, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, will reveal any structural changes.

Imaging tests can help doctors determine:

  • whether a stone is present
  • the size and location of any stones
  • whether there are any blockages
  • the condition of the urinary tract
  • whether complications have affected other organs

During pregnancy, an ultrasound is preferable to a CT scan, as it does not involve radiation.

Here, find out what kidney stones look like.

Treatment will focus on managing symptoms and removing the stone. There are various ways to do this.

Treatment may involve:

  • a high intake of fluids by mouth or intravenously
  • pain relief medication
  • medications to help speed up the passage of stones

How long do kidney stones take to pass?

Large stones

Large stones may need other types of intervention, such as shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), ureteroscopy, or percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL).

SWL involves the use of ultrasound waves to break the stone into smaller pieces to make it easier to pass.

If a doctor opts to use ureteroscopy, they will pass a long, thin tube through the person’s urethra as far as the ureter, which connects the bladder and the kidney. They will then use laser energy to break up the stone.

PCNL involves passing a long, thin instrument through the back and into the kidney, where it can break up or remove the stone using laser energy. This procedure requires general anesthesia.

There may be a risk of complications, such as an infection, after removing a large kidney stone. A doctor should explain the possible complications beforehand so that if any develop, a person can recognize the signs.

A person can usually treat small kidney stones at home.

A doctor may recommend:

  • drinking plenty of fluid and waiting for the stone to pass
  • using over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain and nausea
  • taking alpha-blockers to help the stone pass more quickly
  • avoiding salt and sodas

They may advise the person to continue to drink plenty of fluid after the stones have gone to prevent new ones from forming.

(Video) Kidney Stones: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Some foods may benefit kidney health and help reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Herbs and spices

Guidelines from the American Family Physician (AFP) note that people have long used herbal remedies for kidney stones. However, there is uncertainty regarding their safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with other drugs.

The AFP add, though, that:

  • phytonutrients in green tea, berries, and turmeric may help prevent infection
  • parsley may boost urine production
  • Agropyron repens (couch grass) may help flush out the urinary tract

Proponents of natural remedies note that other foods and supplements that may help protect the kidneys include:

  • basil
  • celery
  • apples
  • grapes
  • pomegranates
  • vitamin B6 supplements
  • pyridoxine supplements

Some research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is common among people with kidney stones, but there is not enough evidence to show that vitamin D supplements are safe or effective for preventing stones.

Do kidney beans help?

Some people drink kidney bean broth to help the stones pass.

People can make the broth by boiling the pods inside the beans for about 6 hours and then straining them. Once the liquid has cooled, they can consume some every 2 hours for 1–2 days.

However, it is important to note that there is no scientific evidence to confirm that this is effective.

(Video) Kidney Stone Treatments

Foods to avoid

Limiting foods that contain the following substances may help prevent stones from developing:

  • protein
  • oxalate
  • sodium (salt)
  • sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup
  • vitamin C supplements

Oxalate is present in many common foods, such as:

  • nuts
  • rhubarb
  • beets
  • miso
  • tahini
  • Swiss chard

However, people should not completely avoid foods containing oxalates, calcium, and protein, as they can have other nutritional benefits.

Learn more about the kidney stone diet.

Kidney stones are not always preventable, but experts recommend that people reduce the overall risk by:

  • drinking at least 2 l of water each day
  • following a healthful diet
  • doing regular exercise

For those with a higher risk of developing kidney stones, a doctor may make dietary recommendations or prescribe medication.

Get more tips on preventing kidney stones.

Kidney stones are a common problem. Not drinking enough fluid is a major causative factor, but dietary habits, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute.

Anyone who has symptoms of a kidney stone, urine infection, or kidney infection should seek medical advice to prevent complications from developing.

FAQs

What is the best treatment for kidney stones? ›

Treatment
  • Drinking water. Drinking as much as 2 to 3 quarts (1.8 to 3.6 liters) a day will keep your urine dilute and may prevent stones from forming. ...
  • Pain relievers. Passing a small stone can cause some discomfort. ...
  • Medical therapy. Your doctor may give you a medication to help pass your kidney stone.
3 Jun 2022

What foods cause kidney stones? ›

Avoid stone-forming foods: Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, which can contribute to kidney stones. If you suffer from stones, your doctor may advise you to avoid these foods or to consume them in smaller amounts.

What are the first signs of kidney problems? ›

Symptoms
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Urinating more or less.
  • Decreased mental sharpness.
  • Muscle cramps.
3 Sept 2021

How can I avoid getting kidney stones? ›

The best way to prevent kidney stones is to make sure you drink plenty of water each day to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  1. drink water, but drinks like tea and coffee also count.
  2. add fresh lemon juice to your water.
  3. avoid fizzy drinks.
  4. do not eat too much salt.

How serious are kidney stones? ›

Kidney stones are usually found in the kidneys or in the ureter, the tube that connects the kidneys to your bladder. They can be extremely painful, and can lead to kidney infections or the kidney not working properly if left untreated.

How long do kidney stones last? ›

A stone can remain in the kidney for years or decades without causing any symptoms or damage to the kidney. Typically, the stone will eventually move through the urinary tract (figure 1) and is passed out of the body in the urine. A stone may cause pain if it becomes stuck and blocks the flow of urine.

What removes kidney stones naturally? ›

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which helps dissolve kidney stones. In addition to flushing out the kidneys, apple cider vinegar can also decrease any pain caused by the stones. In addition, water and lemon juice can help flush the stones and prevent future kidney stones.

What is the fastest way to relieve kidney stone pain? ›

Over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve), can help you endure the discomfort until the stones pass. Your doctor also may prescribe an alpha blocker, which relaxes the muscles in your ureter and helps pass stones quicker and with less pain.

How can I remove kidney stones without surgery? ›

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a technique for treating stones in the kidney and ureter that does not require surgery. Instead, high energy shock waves are passed through the body and used to break stones into pieces as small as grains of sand.

Which fruit is good for kidney stone? ›

Citrus fruit, and their juice, can help reduce or block the formation of stones due to naturally occurring citrate. Good sources of citrus include lemons, oranges, and grapefruit.

What drinks to avoid with kidney stones? ›

Tart drinks like lemonade, limeade, and fruit juices are naturally high in citrate that helps keep kidney stones at bay. But hold back on foods and drinks flavored with sugar or, especially, high-fructose corn syrup. They can lead to stones.

Is Egg good for kidney stones? ›

But overeating meat protein can lead to increased uric acid and lower the citrate and pH. Eggs will not bother those things, but that does not mean you can have as many eggs as you want, especially if you do have cholesterol issues.

What are 3 diseases that affect the kidney? ›

  • Atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS)
  • Alport syndrome.
  • Amyloidosis.
  • Cystinosis.
  • Fabry disease.
  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)
  • Glomerulonephritis (glomerular disease)
  • Goodpasture syndrome.

What are the 8 signs of kidney failure? ›

Signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure may include:
  • Decreased urine output, although occasionally urine output remains normal.
  • Fluid retention, causing swelling in your legs, ankles or feet.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Weakness.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
30 Jul 2022

Do kidney stones make you tired? ›

chills and shivering. feeling very weak or tired. diarrhoea. cloudy and bad-smelling urine.

What foods Fight kidney stones? ›

Eat and drink calcium foods such as milk, yogurt, and some cheese and oxalate-rich foods together during a meal. The oxalate and calcium from the foods are more likely to bind to one another in the stomach and intestines before entering the kidneys. This will make it less likely that kidney stones will form.

Which food avoid in kidney stone? ›

If you've had calcium oxalate stones, you may want to avoid these foods to help reduce the amount of oxalate in your urine:
  • nuts and nut products.
  • peanuts—which are legumes, not nuts, and are high in oxalate.
  • rhubarb.
  • spinach.
  • wheat bran.

At what age do kidney stones occur? ›

People are most likely to develop kidney stones between ages 40 and 60, though the stones can appear at any age. Research shows that 35 to 50 percent of people who have one kidney stone will develop additional stones, usually within 10 years of the first stone.

How do you detect kidney stones? ›

What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose kidney stones?
  1. Urinalysis. Urinalysis involves a health care professional testing your urine sample. ...
  2. Blood tests. A health care professional may take a blood sample from you and send the sample to a lab to test. ...
  3. Abdominal x-ray. ...
  4. Computed tomography (CT) scans.

What happens if a kidney stone isn't removed? ›

First off, it's important to remember that, if left untreated, kidney stones can lead to infections and loss of kidney function, not to mention substantial pain. That said, there are some risks and side effects associated with ureteroscopy. They include: Potential injury to the ureter during the procedure.

Do kidney stones require surgery? ›

Some kidney stones often pass on their own without treatment. Other stones that are painful or that get stuck in your urinary tract sometimes need to be removed with surgery. You might have a procedure or surgery to take out kidney stones if: The stone is very large and can't pass on its own.

Can stress cause kidney stones? ›

Can stress cause kidney stones? Especially when combined with chronic dehydration, stress can trigger the formation of kidney stones. Stress overall can affect your kidneys. Stress can result in high blood pressure and high blood sugar, which can both affect the health of your heart and the kidneys.

How do you flush a kidney stone in 24 hours? ›

The best home remedy to encourage the stone to pass is to drink lots of fluids, especially plain water and citrus juices such as orange or grapefruit. The extra fluid causes you to urinate more, which helps the stone move and keeps it from growing. You should aim for at least 2 to 3 quarts of water per day.

Can kidney stones cause kidney failure? ›

Kidney stones are solid crystals formed from the salts in urine. They are sometimes called renal calculi. Kidney stones can block the flow of urine and cause infection, kidney damage or even kidney failure.

Is there medication to dissolve kidney stones? ›

Your doctor may prescribe potassium citrate to help prevent kidney stones from growing larger or returning. Potassium citrate can also be used to help dissolve and prevent uric acid kidney stones.

Is coffee good for kidney stones? ›

“Our findings show that going from, for example, one cup a day to 1.5 cups per day, reduces the risk of kidney stones by 40 percent,” said co-author of the study, Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

What vegetables are good for kidney stones? ›

Stick to vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, kale, cabbage, and lettuce. These vegetables do not contain oxalates and can help you decrease the risk of kidney stones.

Which medicine is best for kidney pain? ›

Painkillers. Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol should help relieve symptoms of pain and a high temperature.

What position is best for kidney stones? ›

When you have a kidney stone, the priority is to pass it as soon as possible to eliminate the pain. Research indicates that the best position to lay with kidney stones is on the side with the pain. In other words, if the stone is in your left ureter, lie on your left side; if it's in the right ureter, lie on the right.

Can coconut water dissolve kidney stones? ›

Drinking a lot of coconut water will increase the body's urine output. The potassium present in this refreshing drink will alkalinize the acidic urine and dissolve the stones.

Is coconut water good for kidney stone? ›

Coconut water also helps in dissolving kidney stones because of the presence of potassium, which plays a key role in urine alkalizing and preventing formation of kidney stones.

What size of kidney stone requires surgery? ›

Surgical treatment is usually recommended for stones 0.5 centimeters in size and larger, as well as for patients who fail conservative management. The procedures used today to remove stones are minimally invasive and highly effective.

What are the warning signs of kidney stones? ›

Follow These Top Warning Signs Indicating You May Have Kidney Stones
  • Back or belly pain. ...
  • Pain when urinating. ...
  • Cloudy, pinkish or foul-smelling urine. ...
  • Sudden urge to urinate. ...
  • Decreased urine flow. ...
  • Nausea. ...
  • Fever and chills. ...
  • Kidney stones require prompt medical care.

Does stress cause kidney stones? ›

Can stress cause kidney stones? Especially when combined with chronic dehydration, stress can trigger the formation of kidney stones. Stress overall can affect your kidneys. Stress can result in high blood pressure and high blood sugar, which can both affect the health of your heart and the kidneys.

What is the fastest way to dissolve a kidney stone? ›

What Dissolves Kidney Stones Fast? Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which helps dissolve kidney stones. In addition to flushing out the kidneys, apple cider vinegar can also decrease any pain caused by the stones. In addition, water and lemon juice can help flush the stones and prevent future kidney stones.

Does coffee cause kidney stones? ›

Excessive caffeine

Too much caffeine can cause a range of health problems, including kidney stones. Excessive intake of coffee, tea and soda can stress out the kidneys, leading to higher calcium levels in the urine.

How can I check my kidney at home? ›

4 Best At-home Kidney Test Kits
  1. Best blood sample test: LetsGetChecked Kidney Test.
  2. Best blood test for detailed results: Verisana Kidney Function Test.
  3. Best urine-based test: Healthy.io Minuteful Kidney.
  4. Best combination kit: Labcorp OnDemand Kidney Health Test Package.
21 Mar 2022

How long can kidney stones last? ›

A stone can remain in the kidney for years or decades without causing any symptoms or damage to the kidney. Typically, the stone will eventually move through the urinary tract (figure 1) and is passed out of the body in the urine. A stone may cause pain if it becomes stuck and blocks the flow of urine.

How can I relieve kidney stone pain fast? ›

Over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve), can help you endure the discomfort until the stones pass. Your doctor also may prescribe an alpha blocker, which relaxes the muscles in your ureter and helps pass stones quicker and with less pain.

How fast do kidney stones grow? ›

2. They don't form overnight. Kidney stones don't just appear out of nowhere. In fact, they can start to form in your kidneys for months – even years before you ever suspect anything or experience symptoms.

Where on body is kidney pain? ›

You feel kidney pain in the area where your kidneys are located: Near the middle of your back, just under your ribcage, on each side of your spine. Your kidneys are part of the urinary tract, the organs that make urine (i.e., pee) and remove it from your body.

Can dehydration cause kidney stones? ›

Dehydration can also contribute to the formation of kidney stones and urinary tract infections, both of which can lead to kidney damage if not treated quickly. Kidney stones form less easily when you have enough water to prevent stone-forming crystals from sticking together.

How do you flush a kidney stone in 24 hours? ›

The best home remedy to encourage the stone to pass is to drink lots of fluids, especially plain water and citrus juices such as orange or grapefruit. The extra fluid causes you to urinate more, which helps the stone move and keeps it from growing. You should aim for at least 2 to 3 quarts of water per day.

How can I remove kidney stones without surgery? ›

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a technique for treating stones in the kidney and ureter that does not require surgery. Instead, high energy shock waves are passed through the body and used to break stones into pieces as small as grains of sand.

How can I pass a kidney stone in 24 hours naturally? ›

Natural Remedies to Pass Kidney Stones
  1. Drink plenty of water. Kidney stones need to be flushed out of the body so be sure to drink lots of water to keep them moving along. ...
  2. Drink a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. ...
  3. Try raw apple cider vinegar. ...
  4. Eat diuretic foods.
16 Jul 2021

What foods prevent kidney stones? ›

To prevent uric acid stones, cut down on high-purine foods such as red meat, organ meats, and shellfish, and follow a healthy diet that contains mostly vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and low fat dairy products. Limit sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, especially those that contain high fructose corn syrup.

What should you not drink with kidney stones? ›

Tart drinks like lemonade, limeade, and fruit juices are naturally high in citrate that helps keep kidney stones at bay. But hold back on foods and drinks flavored with sugar or, especially, high-fructose corn syrup. They can lead to stones.

Who is most affected by kidney stones? ›

Anyone can get a kidney stone, but some people are more likely than others to get them. Men get kidney stones more often than women. Kidney stones are also more common in non-Hispanic white people than in people of other ethnicities.

Videos

1. Kidney stones — Symptoms, treatment and prevention
(UCI Health)
2. Everything You Need to Know About Urinary Stones | Caroline Wallner, MD | UCLAMDChat
(UCLA Health)
3. What Types of Pain Do Kidney Stones Cause?
(Kettering Health)
4. Kidney stones - Diagnosis and Treatment
(Crossing Rivers Health)
5. Kidney Stones in Children: Symptoms and Diagnosis (2 of 5)
(The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)
6. Kidney stones causes, symptoms and treatment
(Shomu's Biology)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kieth Sipes

Last Updated: 04/25/2023

Views: 6069

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kieth Sipes

Birthday: 2001-04-14

Address: Suite 492 62479 Champlin Loop, South Catrice, MS 57271

Phone: +9663362133320

Job: District Sales Analyst

Hobby: Digital arts, Dance, Ghost hunting, Worldbuilding, Kayaking, Table tennis, 3D printing

Introduction: My name is Kieth Sipes, I am a zany, rich, courageous, powerful, faithful, jolly, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.