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
In this article, we look at how to recognize kidney stones and explain what to do if they occur.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
- high blood pressure
- 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.
(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 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.
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:
- vitamin B6 supplements
- pyridoxine supplements
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.
Foods to avoid
Limiting foods that contain the following substances may help prevent stones from developing:
- sodium (salt)
- sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup
- vitamin C supplements
Oxalate is present in many common foods, such as:
- 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.
What are the symptoms and treatment of kidney stones? ›
A kidney stone may be treated with shockwave lithotripsy, uteroscopy, percutaneous nephrolithomy or nephrolithotripsy. Common symptoms include severe pain in lower back, blood in your urine, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills, or urine that smells bad or looks cloudy. Urine has various wastes dissolved in it.What symptoms can kidney stones cause? ›
Kidney stones form in your kidneys. As stones move into your ureters — the thin tubes that allow urine to pass from your kidneys to your bladder — signs and symptoms can result. Signs and symptoms of kidney stones can include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and blood in your urine.What is the best treatment for kidney stones? ›
- 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.
Most kidney stones are small enough to be passed in your pee, and it may be possible to treat the symptoms at home with medication. Larger stones may need to be broken up or removed with surgery. It's estimated up to half of all people who have had kidney stones will experience them again within the following 5 years.What food causes kidney stone? ›
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.Does coffee cause kidney stones? ›
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.
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 are 5 symptoms of having kidney stones? ›
- Feeling pain in your lower back or side of your body. ...
- Having nausea and/or vomiting with the pain.
- Seeing blood in your urine.
- Feeling pain when urinating.
- Being unable to urinate.
- Feeling the need to urinate more often.
- Fever or chills.
- Having urine that smells bad or looks cloudy.
- Loss of appetite.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Sleep problems.
- Urinating more or less.
- Decreased mental sharpness.
- Muscle cramps.
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.
How do doctors treat kidney stones? ›
The doctor uses a thin viewing tool, called a nephroscope, to locate and remove the kidney stone. The doctor inserts the tool directly into your kidney through a small cut made in your back. For larger kidney stones, the doctor also may use a laser to break the kidney stones into smaller pieces.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 kidney stone is removed? ›
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
PCNL involves using a thin telescopic instrument called a nephroscope. A small cut (incision) is made in your back and the nephroscope is passed through it and into your kidney. The stone is either pulled out or broken into smaller pieces using a laser or pneumatic energy.
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 Egg good for kidney stones? ›
Limit beef, pork, eggs, cheese, and fish, because they may raise your chances of most types of kidney stones. Vitamin C. Too much can make your body produce oxalate. So don't take more than 500 mg a day.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 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 vegetables can cause kidney stones? ›
Some examples of foods that have high levels of oxalate include peanuts, rhubarb, spinach, beets, Swiss chard, chocolate and sweet potatoes. Limiting intake of these foods may be beneficial for people who form calcium oxalate stones which is the leading type of kidney stone.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.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.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.Does tea cause kidney stones? ›
The answer is yes and it's time to limit your consumption. Drinking too much of tea can cause kidney stones and even damage your liver because of its high concentration of oxalate.What causes kidney infection? ›
Bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra can multiply and travel to your kidneys. This is the most common cause of kidney infections. Bacteria from an infection in another part of the body also can spread through the bloodstream to the kidneys.What can I drink to prevent kidney stones? ›
- drink water, but drinks like tea and coffee also count.
- add fresh lemon juice to your water.
- avoid fizzy drinks.
- do not eat too much salt.
- Atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS)
- Alport syndrome.
- Fabry disease.
- Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)
- Glomerulonephritis (glomerular disease)
- Goodpasture syndrome.
- Overusing Painkillers. ...
- Eating Processed Foods. ...
- Not Drinking Enough Water. ...
- Missing Out on Sleep. ...
- Eating Too Much Meat. ...
- Eating Too Many Foods High in Sugar. ...
- Lighting Up. ...
- Drinking Alcohol in Excess.
- Decreased urine output, although occasionally urine output remains normal.
- Fluid retention, causing swelling in your legs, ankles or feet.
- Shortness of breath.
- Irregular heartbeat.
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.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 can you test for kidney stones at home? ›
- Severe pain in the back, side, or below the ribs.
- Pain that travels to the lower abdomen or groin area.
- Pain when urinating.
- Pink, red, brown urine coloring.
- Cloudy or bad-smelling urine.
- Nausea and vomiting.
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 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.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.Which medicine is best for kidney pain? ›
Painkillers. Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol should help relieve symptoms of pain and a high temperature.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.What is the best way to sleep with kidney pain? ›
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.How much apple cider vinegar should I drink to dissolve kidney stones? ›
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps kidney stones dissolve. Add 2 tablespoons to 6-8 ounces of water and drink it throughout the day to reap the benefits. You can also use it as a salad dressing if you'd rather taste it on food.How can I avoid getting kidney stones? ›
- drink water, but drinks like tea and coffee also count.
- add fresh lemon juice to your water.
- avoid fizzy drinks.
- do not eat too much salt.
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.Can kidney stone be removed by medicine? ›
Dissolving uric acid stones
Uric acid stones are the only type of kidney stones that can sometimes be dissolved with the help of medication. Alkaline citrate salts or sodium bicarbonate are considered for this purpose, and sometimes allopurinol.
- Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water.
- Eat less salt. ...
- Have only 2 or 3 servings a day of foods with a lot of calcium, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, oysters, and tofu.
- Eat lemons or oranges, or drink fresh lemonade. ...
- Limit how much protein you eat. ...
- Eat a low-fat diet.
- 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. ...
- Drink a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. ...
- Try raw apple cider vinegar. ...
- Eat diuretic foods.