What Are Kidney Stones?

Medically reviewed by Aaron L Weigmann MD., MS Plastic Surgeon April 08, 2024| Written by Godfrey Makonere Wesutsa

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are amedical condition characterized by hard andcrystalized mineral deposits in the kidney. These are mainly composed of calcium, uric acid, oxalate, and bilirubin. According to research, kidney stones are so prevalent that they affect about10 percent of the world's population. 

Risk factors for kidney stones include dehydration, urinary tract infection, and other health conditions. Aside from these, a diet rich in protein, sodium, and oxalates may also contribute to kidney stones. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what are the symptoms of kidney stones, their diagnosis, and what to do if you develop these stones. We will also delve into treatments and preventive measures. 

What is Kidney Stone Pain Like?

Patients describe their painas intense and excruciating which may suddenly arise but fluctuates with time. In most cases, the pain is compared to aknife stab in the lower back which radiates down the groin and the abdomen area via the urinary tract. 

The severity of the pain often causes the patient to be debilitated - making themrestless, and uncomfortable in certain sitting or sleeping positions. 

The pain may also be accompanied by blood in the urine, fever, and frequent urination - depending on the stone's size and location within the renal system. 

So, if this description of pain rings a bell; it’s a good idea to seek medical advice promptly. 

What are the symptoms of kidney Stones?

1. Intense Pain

In most cases, the symptoms of kidney stones vary and are linked to the location and size of the crystalized stones in your urinary tract. The common major symptom is theexcruciating pain that occurs suddenly or in waveform. 

As stated before, the pain can be best described as asharp and stabbing pain usually occurring in the lower back or abdomen. 

2. Blood in the Urine

Kidney stones may cause theurine to have blood or a condition called hematuria. The movement of kidney stones in the urinary tract and the bladder may cause trauma to the local tissues, thus damaging the small blood vessels in the system. 

That said, kidney stonescan also cause blockage - obstructing the flow of blood and causing it to build up in your tract. This increases pressure and may result in the rupture of the blood vessels in the renal system and kidney dysfunction. 

The condition can also give rise to other health complications like inflammation of the organ and even infection likeUrinary Tract infection (UTI), which may again result inhematuria

In addition, the prolonged effect of kidney stones may affect the kidney as an organ, causing blood in the urine.

3. Difficulty and frequent Urination 

Kidney stones may initiate theurge to urinate more than usual. This mostly occurs due to the irritation caused by the stones in the urinary tract lining. 

Additionally, kidney stones can obstruct the normalflow of urine - leading to difficulty in urination. Sometimes, this means urinating more often but only in small quantities. 

4. Fever, Vomiting, and Nausea 

A kidney stone patient is susceptible to urinary tract infections which may result inchills and fever. Such a patient may also experiencevomiting and nausea as common physiological responses to the pain. 

In this regard, your body may respond to pain by prompting the autonomic nervous system to react, hence making you vomit or feel nauseated. This way, your body tries to expel the unwanted substances from the system to alleviate pain and discomfort.  

What Causes Kidney Stones?

1. Improper Diet

Accumulation of substances likecalcium and uric acid may result in their crystallization to form stones. As expected, improper diet is one factor that can result in high concentrations of these substances within the body. 

Research indicates that consuming food with excess minerals, such as spinach and some nuts, increases the risk of developing kidney stones. After all, these are rich in calcium, oxalate, and sodium that may fail to be excreted out of the body through urination and eventually solidify in the form of kidney stones. 

2. Dehydration

Hydration helps to dilute urine and increasesurine volume. Thus, it helps flush out substances in the kidney that may otherwise form kidney stones. 

In other words, if you aredehydrated, the chances of minerals crystallizing in the form of kidney stones are higher. 

3. Other Medical Conditions

Kidney stones may develop because of existing health conditions such asobesity and hyperparathyroidism. These two health conditions are associated with their effect on metabolism, affecting the body’s mineral intake and elimination from the systems. 

For example,hyperparathyroidism causes higher calcium levels in the blood. Meanwhile, obesity may affect the composition of urine as it affects overall metabolism. Both of these changes can result in the formation of stones. 

Apart from diseases, certain medications likediuretics, mineral supplements, and antibiotics, may also affect the urine composition. Therefore, these may also cause stone formation in the urinary tract. 

So, it’s best to consult a physician before taking any medications or supplements.


1. Physical Examination and Assessing Medical History 

The diagnosis of kidney stones involves processes like taking medical history and analyzing it. 

The first stage of diagnosis involves visiting a physician. They will ask about your symptoms which will also include questions about the location and severity of the pain as well as your existing health conditions and prescriptions. 

2. Urinalysis 

This phase requires urine analysis to check for the presence of mineral substances such as calcium, sodium, and other crystalline minerals. Urinalysis also provides information on urinary tract infections and hematuria, which may indicate the presence of kidney stones. 

3. Imaging

Kidney ultrasounds help doctors assess the stones' location and size - making them easy to treat. Sometimes, a healthcare professional may also recommenda computed tomography (CT) scan to provide more detailed images of the kidney, bladder, and ureters. 

A CT scan is more accurate compared to other tests and can help detect kidney stones of all sizes, their locations as well as composition.

What are Treatments for Kidney Stones?

Generally, the location and size of the kidney stone determine the type of procedure. These may involve the following approaches:

1. Hydration

Treatment of kidney stones may depend on the severity of the condition. In the beginning, kidney stones are small in size and may be treated throughincreased hydration. This not only flushes out the stones but also prevents further minerals from accumulating. In this way, hydration can also prevent stones from growing into big stones.   

2. Pain Management  

Pain management is required to reduce discomfort. In this case, the pain caused by the moving stone is managed to ease the patient's discomfort.  

3. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

This treatment procedure involves usingshock waves to break down the stones into smaller pieces and ease their movement through your urinary tract.  In most cases, health professionals employ this method on small-to-medium-sized kidney stones

4. Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)

The treatment involves asurgical procedure that aims to remove larger kidney stones. A surgeon will make a small incision in the lower back to remove the stones in the kidney.

5. Ureteroscopy (URS)

This procedure involves the insertion ofa ureteroscope through the urethra and bladder to the ureter to see the track and remove the stones. The procedure is usually done to remove stones found in thelower ureter

The procedure can also be applied instead of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) to break uplarger stones

What Dissolves Kidney Stones Fast?

  1. Water

Hydration is vital for kidney stone prevention and helps flush out small stones. Water also dilutes mineral substances and makes them easy to excrete from the body. 

  1. Lemon Juice and Apple Cider Vinegar

Research has indicatedthat lemon juice and apple cider vinegar may help dissolve stones. And so, increasing your intake of lemon juice and apple cider may help you reduce kidney stones. 

However, there is a need for more research to substantiate the effectiveness.

  1. Medication and Herbal Strategies 

Potassium citrate is one of the medications prescribed to prevent kidney stones. This strategy is also applicable to long-term prevention. Herbs such asPistacia lentiscus andAmmi visnaga, have been traditionally used as a remedy for kidney stones.

That said, their effectiveness is not medically determined, and more research is needed on the same. 

What Foods Cause Kidney Stones?

1. Foods High in Sodium 

Food rich insodium exposes you to kidney stones. You are likely to find high sodium content inprocessed and fast foods. 

2. Purine-rich food

Purine-rich food includesanimal organs (i.e. liver, kidney) andcertain seafood (shellfish). When consumed, these foods can increase uric acid production which is among the major causes of kidney stones. 

3. Protein from animals 

A diet high in animal protein is a risk factor for kidney stones because it influences the excretion of uric acid and calcium. Therefore, moderation is needed to prevent kidney stones when consuming such food. 

4. Certain Beverages

Sweetened beverages can also influence calcium concentration in the body hence causing kidney stones. Some of the sweetened beverages that you must avoid include sugar-sweetened soda, sweet tea, and punch.

How Can Lifestyle And Diet Prevent Kidney Stones?

1. Hydration

Drinking water and a lot of healthy fluids is important in preventing kidney stones. Therefore, you should aim to drinka lot of water and fluid to enhance urine dilution and allow the flushing out of stones in the urinary tract. 

2. Reduce Sodium Intake

This involves reducing the amount ofsalt used in food because high sodium makes you lose too much calcium through urine increasing your risk of developing kidney stones.

3. Moderate consumption of animal products

Animal protein may increase your risk of developing kidney stones. So, you may want to reduce the intake of animal protein or opt for dried beans and peas.

Focus on eatinghealthy foods that discourage the formation of kidney stones.

4. Manage Body Weight

Obesity is a risk factor for kidney stones, therefore, maintaining a healthy body weight through exercise is a good idea to prevent the risk of kidney stones. 

Avoiding asedentary lifestyle and alcoholism will also discourage the development of kidney stones by helping you manage your weight. 


Kidney stones are characterized by hard deposits from minerals and salts inside the kidneys. The risk factors for kidney stones include excess body weight, diet, some medications, supplements, and certain medical conditions. 

Kidney stones may result in difficulty urinating, bleeding, as well as general discomfort in maintaining body posture - depending on the location and size of the kidney stone.

You can reduce the risk of kidney stones by checking what you eat and consume. The best strategy is to increase your fluid intake and reduce purine-rich food. But if you already have kidney stones; you must see a doctor immediately for appropriate treatment.

I hope this article helped you learn everything you needed to know about Kidney stones.