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What is a Kidney Stone?

A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney out of the substances in the urine and stays in the kidney or moves down to the urinary tract. In some cases, the kidney stone could pass through the urinary tract without causing much pain. A large stone may get stuck in the urinary tract which could cause a blockage of urine flow and great pain.

There are four major types of kidney stones that doctors have discovered:

  1. Calcium oxalate kidney stones: This is a common type of kidney stone which contains calcium. The kidney usually flushes out any extra calcium with the rest of the urine.
  2. Struvite Stones: They make form after an infection in the urinary system. Struvite stones form from mineral magnesium and waste product of ammonia.
  3. Uric Acid Stone: It will form when the urine contains too much acid and a cutback on how much meat is consumed should be made.
  4. Cystine Stones: These are rare. Cystine is a major component that makes up muscles, nerves, and other parts of the body. There will be a buildup of Cystine in the urine which causes cystine stones to form. Typically, the disease that causes cystine buildup will run in the family.

What do kidney stones look like?

Kidney stones are either jagged or smooth and alternate between yellow or brown. Their size ranges from small as a grain or as large as a pearl. Some kidney stones have been discovered to be the size of a small golf ball.


In the past, any kidney stones that did not pass through the digestive tract were removed surgically. Medical advancements have increased the possible ways to remove kidney stones.

  • Shock waves: Doctors used a machine which sent shock waves directly to the patient’s kidney stone. The shock waves would break the large stone into smaller stones that would be able to pass through the urinary tract. This medical treatment is also known as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. There are also two types of shock machines available. One has the patient sitting in a tub while the newer machines have the patient lying on a table. After, the health technician would direct the shock wave to the kidney stone by using ultrasound or x-ray images.
  • Tunnel Surgery: A small incision is made on the patient’s back whom doctors will then create a small tunnel through the skin linking to the kidney stone. A special instrument will help doctors locate the stone and discard it. The technical name for tunnel surgery is percutaneous nephrolithotomy.
  • Ureteroscope: An ureteroscope looks like a long wire. Doctors will insert it into the patient’s urethra and direct it to where the stone is located. The ureteroscope has a camera attached that allows the doctor to see the stone. A cage is used to capture the stone and extract it from the patient. It is important to know what kidney stone you have that way a doctor can give the correct medication or therapy to relieve the pain.

Kidney stones symptoms :

  • Severe pain in your back or side that will not go away
  • Abnormal Urine Color
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Pyuria – Pus in urine

Preventing Kidney stones

  • Drink more water: At least 12 glasses of water a day will help flush away substances that form in kidney stones.
  • Limit coffee, tea, and cola to 1-2 cups a day: Caffeine causes reduction of fluids quickly.
  • If you have:
  • Uric acid stones: Cut down on meat because when meat breaks down, it creates the uric acid stone
  • If you are prone to forming calcium oxalate stones, limit foods that are high in oxalate. I.e.) rhubarb, beets, spinach, and chocolate

When is surgery required?

Surgery is usually only needed:

  • When the stone is too large to pass through digestive tract
  • When the stone is still growing
  • When the stone is blocking urine flow and causing infection or kidney damage

Medication is only used to decrease the stone formation or help break down and remove material that is causing stone formation.