Kidney stones, also known as nephroliths, are the most common health problems related to the urinary system. About 600,000 cases of kidney stones occur in the United States each year.
Stones are hard mineral fragments that can form in your kidneys. Often they are small enough to pass out of your body in urine. But if they’re too big, you may need medical help to break them up or remove them.
If you think you have kidney stones, get medical help right away. In particular, fever with kidney stones or urinary tract infection (UTI) with kidney stones is a surgical emergency.
Serious complications from kidney stones are rare if treated early, but can be serious if left untreated.
Read on to know more about the symptoms of kidney stones.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are solid collections of salts and minerals, usually calcium or uric acid. They form in the kidneys and can reach other parts of the urinary tract.
Stone sizes vary. Some are as small as the dot at the end of this sentence – a fraction of an inch. Others grow to only a few inches. Some kidney stones become so large that they occupy the entire kidney.
Kidney stones form when certain minerals in the body accumulate too much in the urine. If you don’t hydrate enough, your urine becomes more concentrated with certain minerals. High mineral levels are more likely to cause kidney stones.
Stones are more common in men. About 11 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the United States develop kidney stones at least once in their lifetime.
Kidney stones are more common in people with diabetes and obesity. Kidney stones can be caused by a genetic condition called cystinuria.
Small kidney stones usually do not cause any symptoms. You may not notice anything is wrong until a stone is lodged in the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
If the stone is small enough, it can travel from the bladder to the urethra and pass out of the body through the urine. The smaller the stone, the more likely it is to pass on its own and the faster the process.
Most stones that pass naturally last 31-45 days. If the stone does not pass during this time, it is important to seek medical attention because it increases the risk of kidney damage and other complications.
To help with this process, your doctor will advise you to drink plenty of water. They can strain their urine to trap stones. Analyzing the stone will help determine the root cause.
Kidney stones are often very painful. Most stones pass on their own without treatment. However, a procedure to break up or remove unpassable stones may be needed.