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Patient education: Kidney stones in adults (The Basics)

Patient education: Kidney stones in adults (The Basics)

What are kidney stones? — Kidney stones are just what they sound like: small stones that form inside the kidneys. They form when salts and minerals that are normally in the urine build up and harden.

Kidney stones usually get carried out of the body when you urinate. But sometimes they can get stuck on the way out (figure 1). If that happens, the stones can cause:

Pain in your side or in the lower part of your belly

Blood in the urine (which can make urine pink or red)

Nausea or vomiting

Pain when you urinate

Needing to urinate in a hurry

How do I know if I have kidney stones? — If your doctor or nurse thinks you have kidney stones, they can order an imaging test that can show the stones. (Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.)

How are kidney stones treated? — Each person's treatment is a little different. The right treatment for you will depend on:

The size, type, and location of your stone

How much pain you have

How much you are vomiting

If your stone is small and causes only mild symptoms, you might be able to stay home and wait for it to pass in your urine. If you are going to try this, your doctor will tell you what to do. This usually includes:

Drinking lots of fluids

Taking pain medicines or medicines that make it easier to pass the stone

Urinating through a strainer so you can catch the stone when it comes out

If your stone is big or causes severe symptoms, you might need treatment in the hospital. Kidney stones that do not pass on their own can be treated with:

A machine that uses sound waves to break up stones into smaller pieces. This is called "shock wave lithotripsy." This procedure does not involve surgery, but it can be painful.

A special kind of surgery that makes very small holes in your skin. During this surgery, the doctor passes tiny tools through the holes and into the kidney. Then they remove the stone. This is called "percutaneous nephrolithotomy."

A thin tube that goes into your body the same way urine comes out. Doctors use tools at the end of the tube to break up or remove stones. This is called "ureteroscopy."

What problems do I need to watch for? — If you are trying to pass a kidney stone at home, call your doctor or nurse for advice if:

You do not urinate for more than 8 hours

You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher or you have chills

Your urine is cloudy, smells bad, or has more blood in it than before

The pain from your kidney stone gets very bad and taking pain medicine doesn't help

You are throwing up and can't keep liquids down

Your pain does not go away after 1 to 2 weeks

What can I do to keep from getting kidney stones again? — One simple thing you can do is to drink plenty of water. You might also need to change what you eat, depending on what your kidney stones were made of. If so, your doctor or nurse can tell you which foods to avoid. Your doctor or nurse might also prescribe you new medicines to keep you from having another kidney stone.

More on this topic

Patient education: Blood in the urine (hematuria) in adults (The Basics)

Patient education: Collection of a 24-hour urine specimen (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Kidney stones in adults (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Kidney stones in children (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 02, 2023.
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