General Knowledge FAQs about Kidney Stones

Below are numerous questions that are frequently asked about kidney stones. The information has been divided into three articles – one focused on the types and symptoms of kidney stones with accompanying kidney stone pictures; the next on the causes of kidney stones; and the third on available treatments and descriptions of surgical procedures.


What is a kidney stone?

Kidney stones are hardened mineral deposits that form in the kidneys. They begin as minute particles that bond together into crystal formations that eventually develop into stones. A kidney stone can be the size of a sand grain or they can reach golf ball proportions. A person can have one or they can develop a number of kidney stones.


Are there different types of kidney stones? If so, what are they?

Calcium kidney stones tend to be the most common followed by cystine, struvite, and uric acid kidney stones. Each type of stone has a specific origin or cause that must be treated individually. To view these types of stones, click here to see some kidney stone pictures.


How do I know if I have a kidney stone?

You may have a kidney stone for a month or a year before you begin to wonder what is going on. At some point, the stone grows large enough to signal that something is not quite right. The pain may start as a dull ache on your back and side areas. As the body tries to expel the stone, the result is a constant, severe pain. Another sign may be a burning sensation when urinating, the appearance of blood in the urine, and an increase in the frequency and urgency to urinate.  Other signals to watch for are nausea, vomiting, and contact pain at the lower abdominal area.


Why are kidney stones so painful?

Many women have actually stated that the pain from kidney stones is worse than that experienced during childbirth. Kidney stones tend to form within a kidney’s soft tissue and then move through the kidneys and urinary system as it grows larger. The movement causes pain and bleeding. The medical term for the effects caused by a kidney stone is referred to as nephrolithiasis and is more commonly known as renal stone disease.


Who can get kidney stones?

While anyone can get kidney stones, some people are at greater risk than others. Those with the greatest probability are people with a genetic inclination towards kidney stones. In general, four out of men can experience kidney stones between the ages of 20-60 years of age. Other triggers may include:


  • Chronic dehydration. A combination of very hot weather, severe sweating and minimal fluid intake.
  • Diets that contain excess meat protein, calcium, oxalates, and salt.
  • Urinary and gastrointestinal disorders, including urinary tract blockage, chronic urinary infections, any bowel disease.
  • People who are paralyzed or are on extended periods of bed rest.


What generally causes kidney stones to form?

Kidney stones originate from a liquid and mineral imbalance in the urine. In order to function properly, the kidneys must balance the right fluid and material levels. When an imbalance occurs, the body is overwhelmed by excess materials that it cannot absorb or dissolve. As a result, the urine is left to deal with the extra substances that build up and eventually form the crystals that lead to the formation of kidney stones.

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