Definition of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis, are small, hard mineral deposits that form inside of the kidneys. The stones are comprised of mineral and acid salts.
Passing kidney stones can be painful, but the stones typically don’t cause permanent damage. In some cases, the patient may be able to pass their stone simply by taking pain medication and drinking a lot of water. In other cases, like when the stones become stuck in the urinary tract or otherwise cause complications, surgery may be necessary.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
A kidney stone may not cause symptoms until it starts to move around within the kidney or pass into the ureter (the tube which connects the kidney and bladder). At that point, the patient may start to experience a few of these signs and symptoms:
- Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
- Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
- Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain during urination
- Pink, red or brown urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Persistent need to urinate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Urinating more often than usual
- Urinating small amounts of urine
- Fever and chills if an infection is present
Pain caused by a kidney stone may change as the stone moves through the urinary tract. Pain shifting to a different location in the body or increasing in intensity is typically an indication that the stone is moving through the urinary tract.
Causes of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys down to the bladder. While chronic dehydration is the most common cause of recurrent stones, genetics can also factor in.