Kidney Stones: Causes, Types, Symptoms and Prevention Tips

Dr. Shashidhar B

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shashidhar B

General Physician

9 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Kidney stones are small yet painful, deposits that may form anywhere in your bladder, ureters, urethra, or kidney.
  • The treatment depends on the size of the stones, the symptoms you are experiencing and potential health concerns.
  • A safer bet is to get a general physician and possibly a dietician on board.

Kidney Stones are small, yet often immensely painful, deposits that may form anywhere along with your bladder, ureters, urethra, and kidneys. Kidney stone disease is common in India, with over 1 million cases diagnosed every year. Indian food habits are sometimes a risk factor for kidney stone formation. Kidney stones are treatable, and the issue should resolve within days to weeks. Nevertheless, the pain of passing kidney stones has been likened to that of childbirth and once you develop kidney stones you are at risk of developing them again.

On the other hand, proper hydration, diet, and exercise can greatly help prevent kidney stones. Home remedies too can improve the condition. Given that the prevention and cure of kidney stones remain in your hands to a large degree, it is smart to make an effort to understand the condition, learn if you are at risk, and find out how to overcome it.

Here is a compact guide on kidney stones to set the ball rolling to better health.

What are Kidney Stones?

Called renal calculi, kidney stones are solid deposits that form from minerals and salts in the urine. When urine contains high levels of these dissolved minerals and salts and too little liquid, crystals form. These crystals, in turn, attract other substances and the solid mass grows bigger. These crystal-forming elements are calcium, oxalate, xanthine, cystine, urate, and phosphate.

Types of Kidney Stones:

Calcium Oxalate Stones

These are among the most common types of kidney stones formed through calcium and oxalate. Oxalate is absorbed through the food in your diet or made by your liver. Consuming excess oxalate-rich food and inadequate amount of calcium can result in a high concentration of these minerals, leading to kidney stones.

Calcium Phosphate Stones

These are another but less common type of calcium kidney stones. Unlike calcium oxalate kidney stones,kidney stones causes include metabolic conditions such as hyperparathyroidism and certain medicines. Those who have renal tubular acidosis may also develop these types of kidney stones due to the high pH of their urine. 

Uric Acid stones

These are one of the types of kidney stones that are more common in men. When the uric acid level in urine is above the normal range, it can increase the risk of uric acid stones. These generally are a result of insufficient water intake or excessive loss of fluid due to a health condition. Apart from this, the causes of uric acid kidney stones include a family history of these stones, excess consumption of animal protein, or metabolic syndrome. 

Cystine Stones

These are among the least common types of kidney stones. They are a product of a genetic condition that is mostly hereditary, which leads to high levels of amino acid and thus forms these kidney stones. 

Struvite Stones

These are not among the most common types of kidney stones and are mainly caused by chronic UTIs. These stones grow quickly and often do not have noticeable symptoms. 

Xanthine Stones

These are among the rarest types of kidney stones and are caused by a genetic condition. The condition results in high levels of xanthine and low levels of uric acid. This imbalance can result in xanthine crystalizing in the kidneys, leading to kidney stones. 

Of these, calcium stones are by far the most common, comprising 80% of kidney stones. Once a kidney stone develops, stone pain is not a necessary consequence. The stone can stay within the kidney and cause you no problems. However, if it makes its way to the ureter and fails to be passed out through urine, it will cause urine build-up and ensuing pain.

Also Read: Home Remedies For Kidney Stone

Kidney Stones Causes

Based on how kidney stones form, a few reasons can be singled out. They are:

  • A high level of crystal-forming substances, like calcium and phosphate, in the urine
  • A low amount of fluid to keep the substances dissolved (low urine volume)
  • Lack of substances that halt crystal formation

However, it is not easy to pinpoint a cause for it as several risk factors play a hand in their formation. For example, here are some risk factors that must be evaluated:

  • Making less than a liter of urine per day
  • Insufficient water intake
  • Loss of body fluids
  • A diet that contains too much salt, oxalate, and animal protein
  • Obesity
  • Intestinal surgery such as gastric bypass surgery
  • Medical conditions such as hyper parathyroid condition
  • Current medication including calcium supplements
  • Being male
  • Prior presence of kidney stones in you or your family

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

The symptoms range from non-existent and mild to excruciating. Larger kidney stones more often than not cause more pain and symptoms. While symptoms may show up when the stones move within the kidneys, severe pain called renal colic may arise when the stone makes its way through the urinary tract and blocks a part of it.

So, if you have a stone large enough to block your ureter, you may experience renal colic and symptoms such as:

  • Intense, cramping pain along the side, back, and lower abdomen
  • Pain that radiates to the groin, lower back, and lower abdomen
  • Waves of sudden pain, of varying degrees
  • Nausea and vomiting

Some Other Kidney Stones Symptoms Are:

  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Feeling of an intense urge to urinate
  • Urinating more often
  • Urinating in small amounts
  • Burning sensation whilst urinating
  • Dark or red urine (blood in urine)
  • Fever and chills

The above along with pain in the lower back, abdomen, and side can also be categorized as kidney stone early symptoms. Further, kidney stone symptoms in men include pain at the tip of the penis.

Given the intensity of that pain can rise to, it is understandable that you would want to address the condition as soon as any of these early signs surface. However, there is another reason to tend to kidney pain symptoms as soon as they arise. Untreated kidney stones can cause infections and complications such as the narrowing of ureters and kidney disease.

Tips to Avoid Kidney Stones:

Given that most types of kidney stones are a result of improper diet, they can be prevented if you pay attention to what you put in your body. One of the best ways to prevent kidney stones is to ensure that you keep your body hydrated. While you aim to drink enough liquids, it is important that you consume the good kind. This includes tea, coffee, lemon water, or even fruit juice. To keep yourself hydrated and prevent major types of kidney stones, you should drink at least 3 liters of liquid daily. However, this amount may change depending on your health, so you can consult a general physician to know the ideal fluid intake for your body and needs. Other than this, you should also ensure that you consume an adequate number of calcium-rich foods while reducing your sodium intake. 

Foods That Cause Kidney Stones:

Apart from the tips mentioned above to prevent various types of kidney stones, you also need to ensure that your diet does not contain an excess of foods that are known to be common kidney stones causes. Some of the foods that can cause kidney stones are:

  • Sodium-rich foods such as meals with added salt, canned food, fast food, and certain vegetable or fruit juices such as cranberry juice 
  • Excess phosphate and oxalate-rich foods like beet, okra, cashews, almonds, spinach, chocolate, rhubarb
  • Too much animal protein from eggs, red meat, seafood, poultry, chicken, or pork
  • Foods that have added sugar, fizzy drinks, and alcohol

Kidney Stones Diagnosed:

Before understanding more about kidney stone removal and treatment, you should know the method for testing and diagnosing different types of kidney stones. Generally, your doctor will advise you to get some imaging tests as well as a blood test or a urine test. All of these tests help your doctor better understand the kidney stones causes and the types of kidney stones you have. This also helps form an effective kidney stones treatment plan to ensure that you are not just able to be free of your current kidney stones but also reduce future occurrences. 

A blood test can reveal if you have too much calcium or uric acid, both of which can cause different types of kidney stones. A blood test also helps doctors understand how healthy your kidneys are. A urine test shows if you are passing a large amount of kidney stone causing minerals or have a UTI that can cause kidney stones. The main objective of imaging tests is to check the kidney stones present in your urinary tract. The images reveal the location as well as the size of the kidney stones. In some cases, you may be advised to urinate through a strainer. This is to catch the stones and do an analysis to get a more accurate kidney stones causes.

Treatment for Kidney Stones:

The treatment for kidney stones depends on the size of the stones, the symptoms you are experiencing, and potential health concerns. Below are some ways to treat kidney stones.

Let the Stone Pass Naturally

Small stones can pass on their own, with adequate water intake (1.8-3.6L/ day), and your doctor may prescribe pain killers to aid the process.

Use Medication

Alpha-blockers such as Tamsulosin (Flomax) relax the ureter, thus improving the chances of the stone passing, and with less pain too.

Also Read: Natural Remedies to Remove Kidney Stones

Undergo Surgery

If the kidney stones are too large to pass naturally, pose the threat of infection, or cause too much pain, your doctor may suggest surgery such as:

  • Ureteroscopy (URS)
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL)

Opt for Shock Wave Lithotripsy

This medical technique does not require you to undergo surgery and uses shock waves of high energy to break down large stones. It is called SWL or ESWL.

If these procedures are inadequate or do not work, doctors will evaluate other surgeries and medical techniques.

Once cured, your next task is to avoid getting them again, and this is something you are at risk of. In general, too, preventing the occurrence of kidney stones is better than trying to cure the condition.

Thankfully, there are lifestyle changes you can incorporate from the get-go. To start with, you need to pass 2-2.5L of urine a day, and this means drinking sufficient amounts of water. But, depending on the type of kidney stone you have you may have to drink more water. Cutting down your sodium intake, consuming less animal protein, and toning down on oxalate-rich food are also tactics to employ.

However, while trying to prevent kidney stones you may run into all sorts of nutrient deficiencies if you make drastic modifications to your diet by yourself. A safer bet is to get a general physician and possibly a dietitian on board. You can do this easily with the healthcare platform provided by Bajaj Finserv Health. It gives you instant access to relevant doctors and provides easy means to carry out consultations. For instance, you can find a doctor online, book a virtual consultation and find out if the symptoms you are facing correspond to the kidney stone pain area or not. You can then book a doctor appointment online for a diagnosis at the doctor’s clinic.

Now that you understand kidney stones, kidney stone symptoms, and how you can prevent the occurrence of kidney stones, make every effort to live healthily and keep your kidneys happy!

Published on 19 Nov 2020Last updated on 3 Oct 2022

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

Dr. Shashidhar B

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shashidhar B

, MBBS 1 Karnataka Institute Of Medical Sciences Hubli, PG Diploma in Sexual Medicine 2 , Diploma in Reproductive Medicine (Germany) 2 , DNB - General Medicine 3 , FNB - Reproductive Medicine 6



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