Kidney Stones

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones, also known as stone disease, are hard, small deposits formed in the kidneys. Minerals and acidic salts build up in the body and form hard deposits, which must be removed to prevent urinary blockages. 

Both women and men are vulnerable to four types of kidney stones:

Calcium Stones

Generally, a calcium stone consists of calcium oxalate, although calcium phosphate or maleate can also exist. Oxalates are natural substances found in some fruits, vegetables, nuts, and chocolate. Your body will take the nutrients it needs from these foods, but once the waste (including oxalate) is consumed, it will go to your kidneys.

Uric Acid Stones

Most uric acid stones are caused by dehydration or a low pH in the urine. The presence of uric acid stones is associated with diuresis, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.

Struvite Stones

When someone has an infection such as a urinary tract infection, their urine becomes alkaline instead of acidic. As a result, bacteria convert urea into ammonia, which raises the pH level of urine. The crystallization of minerals like ammonia, magnesium, and phosphate in alkaline urine creates struvite stones.

Cystine Stones

Cystine stones are caused by cystinuria, a hereditary disorder. There are an estimated 7,000 people worldwide who suffer from Cystinuria. This condition causes the natural substance “cystine” to leak into your urine. Stones form when there is too much cystine in the urine.

Kidney Stone Symptoms

It can be hard to identify kidney stones based on their symptoms. You should notify your physician if you experience any sudden or severe symptoms to prevent kidney stones from becoming too large.

Symptoms or signs of bladder cancer can include those listed below. Occasionally, bladder cancer patients do not have any of these symptoms: 

  • Abdominal, back, or side pain
  • Pain during urination
  • Blood present in urine
  • Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Kidney Stone Causes and Risk Factors

  • Low Urine Output

Low urine output is a common cause of kidney stones, and it is typically a result of an underlying condition, such as dehydration. 

  • Diet 

A high intake of oxalate, sodium, and animal protein is responsible for many kidney stones. Limiting these foods in your diet may reduce the risk of kidney stones developing.

  • Genetic Factors

Genetic factors can heighten your chances of developing kidney stones, including cystinuria.

  • Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections

Individuals who regularly suffer from chronic urinary tract infections are at the greatest risk of developing struvite stones.

  • Obesity

If you’re obese with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, you’re almost twice as likely to develop a kidney stone. 

When it comes to preventing kidney stones from forming in the future, proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are key. Get started on your healthy lifestyle journey by downloading our Nutrition and Lifestyle Guide! 

[Get Your Free Guide]

Kidney Stone Treatment

Treating Stones at Home

A small kidney stone will typically pass through urine on its own after a few days. During this time, your doctor can prescribe painkillers to help you manage your pain. In some cases, you need anti-emetic medication to treat nausea and vomiting. As part of the treatment, patients should drink three or more liters of water every day in order to dissolve kidney stones. If your kidneys are too large to pass naturally, your doctor may recommend further treatment.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

In this procedure, x-rays or ultrasound are used to pinpoint the location of the stone, then a special machine that sends shock waves to the area is used to break the stone into smaller pieces. Painkillers are normally administered to patients during this procedure since it can be a bit uncomfortable. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy is by far the most commonly used procedure for treating large kidney stones.


Kidney stones can sometimes get stuck in the ureters, in which case you will need a ureterorenoscopy. This procedure is also known as retrograde intrarenal surgery, which involves passing a thin urethroscope through the urethra and into the bladder. Afterward, it will navigate through the ureter to the area where the stone is located. The stone can either be broken into smaller pieces or gently removed by your doctor, so that it can be easily passed through urine. The ureter may also be inserted with a plastic tube, known as a stent, to assist the stone’s descent into the bladder for excretion

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy 

The procedure is also commonly used in situations where ureterorenoscopy is not possible, for example in obese patients. Unlike ureterorenoscopy, in which the instrument is inserted into the urethra, the surgeon uses a nephoscope to pull out the stone through a small incision in the lower back. It may also be broken up with a laser so that it can be passed into the urine. Treatment of this type is effective on stones ranging from 0.8 to 1.2 inches in diameter.

A number of our providers at the Urology Specialists of the Carolinas specialize in treating urinary incontinence. Meet our expert team of physicians:


If your stone is smaller than 5mm, it will typically be able to pass easily. Meanwhile, larger stones will generally be more painful and might require medical intervention. If you are going to let your kidney stone pass naturally, we recommend drinking plenty of water to help flush it out of your body.

Passing a kidney stone can cause discomfort, so your doctor may recommend painkillers to relieve some of the pain. Alpha-blockers are another common medication for kidney stones. This medication works by relaxing the muscles in your ureter to help the stone pass more quickly and with less pain.

For larger kidney stones that cannot be passed naturally, surgery might be necessary. Although this is not the case for most stones, your urologist will decide if surgery is needed depending on the kidney stone’s size and location.

Treating Kidney Stones with Urology Specialists of the Carolinas

Although uncomfortable, it is possible to pass a mild kidney stone on your own. In the case of more severe kidney stones, medication or surgery may be necessary. In the event you experience any symptoms of kidney stones, consult with one of our urology specialists so that they can monitor its progress. Click below to find your nearest location and schedule an appointment.


Other Procedures