Symptoms and Causes

Kidney stones affect about 5 percent of Americans each year. Mount Sinai offers expert care in diagnosing and treating this condition. It helps to understand the symptoms, causes, and approaches to prevention of kidney stones.


You might not realize right away that you have a kidney stone. When the stone is still in your kidney, you might not feel it. If the stone is very small, it might be able to move through your urinary tract and leave your body with urine, without causing any problems.

However, when a stone travels to your ureter (tube leading from your kidney to the bladder), you will likely feel symptoms. Kidney stones are sometimes considered "the great mimicker" because their signs and symptoms are very similar to appendicitis, ovarian or testicular conditions, gastritis, and urinary tract infections. You may not feel pain in your kidneys; you may feel it elsewhere, due to pain referral patterns.

The most common signs and symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Burning during urination
  • Flank pain (e.g., pain in the side of the abdomen, toward the back)
  • Frequent and/or urgent urination
  • Groin pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Pain overlying the bladder
  • Recurring urinary tract infections
  • Visible or microscopic blood in the urine (hematuria)

Symptoms can be mild to severe and unrelenting. Classic kidney stone pain is often referred to as "colic," which implies that the pain comes and goes. In reality, kidney stone pain can be constant and severe and make it extremely difficult to find a comfortable position.                    


Often, kidney stones do not have one singular cause. Multiple factors can cause kidney stones to form, including genetic, environmental, dietary, and medical issues. Among the most important factors are:

  • Calcium supplements
  • Certain medications (such as topiramate and furosemide)
  • Dehydration
  • Diabetes
  • Diseases causing metabolic acidosis
  • Family history of stone disease, generally only in the case of cysteine stones
  • Gastric bypass or lap-band surgery
  • Gastrointestinal diseases (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease)
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Living in geographic areas with high incidence of stone disease
  • Sarcoidosis