Kidney stones - what to ask your doctor
Nephrolithiasis - what to ask your doctor; Renal calculi - what to ask your doctor; What to ask your doctor about kidney stones
A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in your kidney. The kidney stone may get stuck in your ureter (the tube that carries urine from your kidneys to your bladder). It also may get stuck in your bladder or urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder to outside your body). A stone can block the flow of your urine and cause great pain. In most cases, a stone that is in the kidney and not blocking the flow of urine does not cause pain.
Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider.
If you ever have severe pain in your belly or one side of your back that comes and goes suddenly, you may be passing a kidney stone. Let's talk about the painful condition of kidney stones. A kidney stone is a mass of tiny crystals in your kidney or urinary tract. Stones are quite common, and tend to run in families. They can form in weeks or months when your urine contains too much of certain substances. There are several kinds of kidney stones. Calcium stones are by far the most common kind. They often form in men between the ages of 20 to 30. Calcium can combine with other substances found in your food, like oxalate, phosphate, or carbonate, to form stones. Cystine stones can form in people who have cystinuria, a condition passed down through families in which stones are made from an amino acid called cystine. Struvite stones are found mostly in women who have urinary tract infections. These stones can grow very large and can block the kidney, ureter, or bladder. Uric acid stones are more common in men than in women. They can occur in people who have a history of gout or are going through chemotherapy. So, how do you know if you have kidney stones? Well, you may not have symptoms until the stone move down the ureter tubes through which urine empties into your bladder. When this happens, the stones can block the flow of urine out of your kidneys. The main symptom is severe sharp pain that starts suddenly, usually in your belly or one side of your back, and it may go away just as quickly. Other symptoms can include abnormal urine color, blood in your urine, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. So, what do you do about kidney stones? Well, your health care provider will perform a physical exam. You may need blood tests, kidney function tests, and tests that look for crystals in your urine. Several imaging tests, like a CT scan, can see stones or a blockage in your urinary tract. Treatment will depend on the type of stone you have, and how bad your symptoms are. Small kidney stones that are less than 5 mm in diameter will usually pass on their own. You should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day to produce a large enough amount of urine to help bring the stone out. Pain can be pretty bad when you pass a kidney stone, so your doctor may prescribe pain medicines to help as well as medications that will help the stone pass. Other medicines can decrease stone formation or help break down and remove the material that is causing you to make stones. You may need surgery if the stone is too large to pass, the stone is growing, or the stone is blocking your urine flow. Kidney stones are painful, but you can usually pass them without causing permanent harm. However, kidney stones often come back, so you and your doctor will need to work on finding the cause of your stone. Lastly, delaying treatment can lead to serious complications, so if you think that you have kidney stones see your doctor right away.
If I had a kidney stone removed, can I get another one?
How much water and liquids should I drink every day? How do I know if I'm drinking enough? Is it OK to drink coffee, tea, or soft drinks?
What foods can I eat? What foods should I avoid?
- What types of protein can I eat?
- Can I have salt and other spices?
- Are fried foods or fatty foods OK?
- What vegetables and fruits should I eat?
- How much milk, eggs, cheese, and other dairy foods can I have?
Is it OK to take extra vitamins or minerals? How about herbal remedies?
What are the signs that I may have an infection?
Could I have a kidney stone and not have any symptoms?
Can I take medicines to keep kidney stones from coming back?
What surgeries or other procedures can be done to treat my kidney stones?
What tests can be done to find out why I get kidney stones?
When should I call the provider?
Bushinsky DA. Nephrolithiasis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 117.
Leavitt DA, de la Rosette JJMCH, Hoenig DM. Strategies for nonmedical management of upper urinary tract calculi. In: Partin AW, Dmochowski RR, Kavoussi LR, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 93.
Last reviewed on: 1/1/2023
Reviewed by: Kelly L. Stratton, MD, FACS, Associate Professor, Department of Urology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.