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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.
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)