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Kidney Stones


What is a kidney stone?

Kidney stones form in the urinary system when the water and waste in your urine are out of balance. When this happens, certain types of waste crystals separate from the urine. The crystals build up and form kidney stones. Kidney stones can be made of uric acid, calcium, phosphate, or oxalate crystals. You may have 1 or more kidney stones.

What increases my risk for kidney stones?

  • You do not drink enough liquids (especially water) each day.
  • You have urinary tract infections often.
  • You follow a certain type of diet. For example, people who eat a diet high in meat or salt may be at higher risk for kidney stones. People who eat foods high in oxalate may also be at higher risk. Foods that are high in oxalate include nuts, chocolate, coffee, and green leafy vegetables.
  • You take certain medicines such as diuretics, steroids, and antacids.
  • A family member has had kidney stones.
  • You were born with a kidney or bowel disorder, or you have other medical problems such as gout.

What are the signs and symptoms of kidney stones?

  • Pain in the middle of your back that moves across to your side or that may spread to your groin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urge to urinate often, burning feeling when you urinate, or pink or red urine
  • Tenderness in your lower back, side, or stomach

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health, diet, and lifestyle. He may refer you to a urologist. You may need tests to find out what type of kidney stones you have. Tests can show the size of your kidney stones and where they are in your urinary system. You may have one or more of the following:

  • Urine tests may show if you have blood in your urine. They may also show high amounts of the substances that form kidney stones, such as uric acid.
  • Blood tests show how well your kidneys are working. They may also be used to check the levels of calcium or uric acid in your blood.
  • A noncontrast helical CT scan is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to take pictures of your kidneys. Healthcare providers use the pictures to check for kidney stones or other problems.
  • X-rays of your kidneys, bladder, and ureters may be done. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. You may need to have more than one x-ray. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • An abdominal ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your abdomen on a monitor.

How are kidney stones treated?

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Prescription medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Medicines to balance your electrolytes may be needed.
  • A procedure or surgery to remove the kidney stones may be needed if they do not pass on their own. Your treatment will depend on the size and location of your kidney stones.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Drink plenty of liquids. Your healthcare provider may tell you to drink at least 8 to 12 (eight-ounce) cups of liquids each day. This helps flush out the kidney stones when you urinate. Water is the best liquid to drink.
  • Strain your urine every time you go to the bathroom. Urinate through a strainer or a piece of thin cloth to catch the stones. Take the stones to your healthcare provider so they can be sent to the lab for tests. This will help your healthcare providers plan the best treatment for you.
    Look for Stones in the Filter
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, and fish. You may need to limit how much sodium (salt) or protein you eat. Ask for information about the best foods for you.
  • Exercise regularly. Your stones may pass more easily if you stay active. Ask about the best activities for you.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have vomiting that is not relieved by medicine.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have trouble passing urine.
  • You see blood in your urine.
  • You have severe pain.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.