Kidney Stones: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Cost
Last Updated: Sep 15, 2022
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stone also known as nephrolithiasis, renal calculi or urolithiasis is a hard object made of chemicals such as salts and minerals found in one’s urine. Getting kidney stones is quite common and as per the National Kidney Foundation, a little more than half a million of the global population need to visit the emergency rooms for a solution to this problem yearly.
If you want to know more about kidney stones and how they occur, keep reading!
One doesn’t get kidney stones in their urine by swallowing a stone; it develops within your body through the accumulation of the chemicals. The smallest kidney stone can be the size of a pea and the largest, the size of a golf ball. The Guinness World Records has recorded the biggest stone in terms of wideness to be over 5 inches. The larger a kidney stone gets, the more difficult it becomes to pass it out on its own and will eventually require surgery.
Kidney stones can develop in any region of the entire urinary tract, whether the kidney or the bladder. Stones can also develop from urine which has accumulated concentrating minerals to crystallise and clump together.
Certain medical conditions, dehydration, imbalanced diet and obesity can be factors instrumental for triggering kidney stone formation. One survey found out that about 12% of Americans develop a kidney stone in their lifetime and the percentage is only rising.
The earlier your condition is diagnosed, the easier it will be to eliminate it from the body. However, if the kidney stones become stuck in the tract or give rise to a urinary infection, your doctor will suggest a medical procedure.
Types of Kidney Stones
Not all kidney stones are the same. And knowing the composition of your kidney stone will help determine the right and most effective course of treatment. There are predominantly 4 types of kidney stones:
Uric Acid Stones
This type can be hereditary. Regular consumption of a high protein diet comprising shellfish and red meats is mainly responsible. This is because these foods contain purines, a natural chemical compound which produces monosodium urate crystals. Under appropriate conditions, it will become crystallised into kidney stones.
You can also be vulnerable to developing uric acid stones if you are diabetic, suffer from metabolic syndrome or if you lose a lot of fluid due to malabsorption or chronic diarrhoea.
Calcium Oxalate Stones
Oxalate is a substance made by the liver daily and also absorbed from certain foods such as chocolate, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Calcium stones can also be found in calcium phosphate form, more common in people suffering from renal tubular acidosis (a type of metabolic condition). Calcium phosphate stones can also occur if you regularly take medications for controlling seizures and migraines.
A few other minor yet equally important reasons supporting the development of calcium oxalate stones are calcium deficiency and dehydration.
Cystine stones are hereditary and quite rare. Cystine stones are caused by the disorder ‘cystinuria’ which prompts cystine’ to escape into the urine. Kidney stones will eventually develop when there is an excess of cystine in the urine. The stones can get lodged perpetually anywhere in the urinary tract.
If you are diagnosed with cystine stones, you should know that it is a lifelong condition. There will be recurrences, so the condition can be regulated with proper treatment but cannot be cured. The nature of treatment will entail increasing fluid intake, taking timely medications and reducing your sodium and meat intake.
This is primarily caused by an infection within the urinary tract and is not very common.
What are the symptoms of Kidney Stones?
If you develop small kidney stones, you may not even notice that they have passed. But if the kidney stones are of significant proportion they will indicate certain signs such as:
- Sharp pain in the backside, side and underneath the ribs
- Pain that fluctuates in intensity
- Shooting pain to the groin and lower abdomen
- Burning sensation at the time of urination
- Reddish-pink or brown urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased frequency of urination or constantly urinating in small quantities
- Cloudy urine with a strong stench
- Fever along with chills (if there is an infection)
- Blood in urine
Note that the above-mentioned symptoms will only be felt or seen when the kidney stones have passed into the ureters or starts to move around the kidneys. The ureter connects the kidneys to the bladder and if a kidney stone becomes lodged within the ureters (which is similar to a tube), it will obstruct urine flow and cause painful contractions in the ureter.
What are the first signs of kidney stones?
Signs and symptoms of kidney stones can vary from person to person. Some likely signs you can experience initially are:
What causes Kidney Stones?
Did you know that excessive body weight, dehydration and the diet you follow every day are major factors why kidney stones form?
The other kidney stone causes are due to substances that crystallise and turn into hard objects sometimes the size of a chickpea or bigger. These substances are:
- Uric acid
The stones will form in your body when there is not enough liquid to eliminate the salts and minerals via urine.
How serious are Kidney Stones?
Although Kidney stones are not life-threatening, they can cause a fair deal of discomfort in your daily life. More importantly, they can damage the kidneys and cause kidney infections if left untreated. So, it’s advisable not to neglect treatment and opt for a medical procedure at the soonest for a one-time resolution of the problem.
Risk factors for Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can happen to anyone but there are some determinants that make you more vulnerable to developing them. These are:
History of Kidney Stones
If a member of your family has a history of kidney stones such as one or both of your parents/grandparents, you are likely to get it too. If you have had kidney stones earlier you can experience a case of recurrence unless proper treatment is not carried through.
As mentioned above, dehydration is one of the principal factors behind kidney stone development. People who live in tropical countries with a hot and humid climate or those who sweat a lot each day will find themselves at great risk.
If you have a family history of cystinuria, hyperthyroidism or have experienced past renal tubular acidosis and repeated urinary tract infections, you stand in a risky position of getting kidney stones.
Other health factors that can play a cause are inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhoea, and gastric bypass surgery. These factors linked to gastrointestinal disorders cause alterations within the digestive process that affect your ability to absorb water and calcium.
How can you prevent Kidney Stones?
The risk group with the highest incidence of kidney stone rate is between 25 to 45 years of age. The incidence, however, deteriorates after you have reached 50. If you had kidney stones earlier you are likely to get them again within a decade unless proper follow-up treatment is not maintained.
Kidney stones can be averted by making small and adjustable tweaks to your diet along with taking timely medications. These include:
Drinking eight glasses of water or any fluid is highly important to pass about two litres of urine daily. The more fluid in your body means the greater will be your urine output. A controlled amount of vitamin C in your diet such as orange juice and lemonade are good options that prevent kidney stones from forming since they contain citrate.
Cut Down on Sodium
As already mentioned, a high salt diet is not viable if you want to stay protected from kidney stones. Excess sodium in urine interferes with your ability to reabsorb calcium from urine to the blood. This is not just limited to table salt, food items infamous for being high in sodium are canned and processed foods (this includes burgers, pizzas, doughnuts and chips), condiments, foods containing monosodium glutamates such as Chinese cuisine and fast food, foods that contain sodium bicarbonate and sodium nitrate.
Calcium Rich Diet
Calcium oxalate is the most common type of kidney stone experienced by people. To protect yourself from this, you must consume more calcium-rich foods such as low-fat cheese, low-fat milk, and low-fat yogurt. Taking calcium supplements along with your meal can also be beneficial
Avoid Oxalate Enriched Foods
Cut Down on Animal Protein
Protein items such as fish, pork, poultry, and beef are highly acidic and increase the chance of developing uric acid. This kind of diet if continued can in the future cause calcium oxalate kidney stones and uric acid.
Talk to your doctor if you have a history of kidney stones in your family or if you yourself had one a few years ago. He/she will advise you to take medications based on your kidney stone type:
Dos in Kidney Stones
- Drink 2- 3 litres of water daily to produce almost clear urine
- Take pain relievers to ease pain at the time of passing stones
- Take the alpha-blocker medications timely as prescribed by the doctor to help you pass the stone easily
- Limit your intake of protein
- Have a calcium-rich diet that is low in fat
Don’ts in Kidney Stones
- Avoid foods rich in sodium
- Do not consume oxalate-rich foods
- Consume processed food
- Refrain from drinking anything that dehydrates you such as coffee, alcohol or cola
- Cut down on your sugar intake
- Do not consume foods containing a high quantity of fructose corn syrup
Kidney Stones - Diagnosis and Tests
If you have a family history of kidney stones or had one yourself in the recent past you should always stay vigilant. In case, you do not have personal or family history of this condition but have been noticing abnormal symptoms lately you should fix an appointment with your doctor at the earliest. The only way to be sure is to have a private consultation with an expert along with some medical tests.
How is a Kidney Stones diagnosed?
The diagnosis of kidney stones will take place based on the following symptoms:
- Blood in urine
- Nausea along with abdominal pain
- Feeling discomfort when sitting, lying down or even standing
- Facing trouble peeing
The doctor will prescribe some diagnostic tests to be sure of the condition, the nature of the stone and its size
What tests are done for Kidney Stones?
The following are standard tests for Kidney stone diagnosis
For this test, the doctor will ask you to perform two urine tests spread over two consecutive days. The main aim of the 24-hour urine test is to detect if you are excreting too few stone-preventing substances or too many minerals that can form stones.
A blood test will reveal too much uric acid or calcium content in the blood.
A high-speed or dual-energy computerised tomography (CT) scan will help reveal tiny stones. Imaging tests will confirm the presence of kidney stones within the urinary tract.
Assessment of Passed Stones
In some labs, you may be handed a strainer to trap some of the tiny kidney stones that you pass. The diagnostic lab will then examine the stone thoroughly to determine the type of kidney stone out of the four mentioned and why kidney stone formation is taking place.
This test takes pictures of your kidney stones with the aid of sound waves
What are possible complications of Kidney Stones?
As mentioned above, kidney stones in itself are not a fatal condition but as a domino effect, they can cause certain complications which can be quite serious:
- Blood infection which is medically known as septicaemia
- There can be damage to the kidneys, renal scarring leading to permanent renal failure
- Urinary retention is caused as a result of bladder blockage when a large kidney stone gets lodged into the urethra
- Kidney malfunction can result in the need for kidney removal known in medical terminology as nephrectomy
Home Remedies for Kidney Stones?
Are home remedies effective for controlling or preventing kidney stones at home? The answer is Yes! There are a number of ways you keep yourself protected from developing kidney stones by following a few remedies with easily available ingredients in your home and the local market. These are:
Drinking 6-8 glasses of water or 2-3 litres of water daily is the single most important remedy for controlling kidney stones or preventing them from forming in your urinary tract.
Lemon contains citrate which helps to break down the calcium deposits in the body. Consuming sugar-free lemonade will effectively slow down the development of kidney stones.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The National Institutes of Health has revealed that consuming calcium supplements makes you more vulnerable to developing kidney stones as they provide you more than the daily recommended intake. Instead, you should aim to fulfil your calcium requirement from food sources such as fish with edible bones, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, kale, dairy products (low fat), grains and calcium-fortified cereals
A study has revealed that out of a group of 146 people diagnosed with kidney stones about 43.8% were struggling with weight issues or were diagnosed obese with a BMI of 35 and above. Managing your weight by engaging in low to medium-intensity exercise along with a balanced diet (keeping the dos and don’ts in mind) is essential.
Please note that these home remedies do not guarantee that you will never have kidney stones or never face a recurrence. A surgical procedure is the best way to get relief from the discomfort associated with kidney stones.
In the case of small stones, home remedies can be effective. But if your stones are very large, undergoing surgery from a reputed and reliable health partner will be essential. Pristyn Care provides you with an array of treatment options both minimally invasive and quick. These painless laser methods are affordable and effective forms of kidney stone treatment.
What to eat in Kidney Stones?
- Citrus fruits like grapefruit, lemons and oranges
- Calcium-enriched foods like types of cheese, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, tofu, legumes, dark green veggies, nuts and seeds
- Lean meat
- Low-fat diet
- Lots of fluid, especially water
What not to eat in Kidney Stones?
- Processed, canned foods and Chinese and Mexican cuisine which are high in sodium content
- Limited animal protein because it is risky for uric acid kidney stone development
- Be wary of oxalate-rich foods such as tea, chocolate, sweet potatoes, beets, rhubarb
Kidney Stones Treatment
The first step of your kidney stone treatment entails visiting a specialist who will diagnose your symptoms and then ask you to undergo
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
Once the reports arrive and the doctor has determined the type of kidney stone you have and the size, the next steps of your treatment will be adjusted accordingly.
Which doctor to consult for Kidney Stones?
Your first appointment will be with a general physician who will list down your symptoms based on your discomfort points and ask you to undergo a few standard tests. Once the reports are generated by the diagnostic laboratory, the general physician will review the medical records and recommend a nephrologist based on the severity of your condition.
Which are the best medicines for Kidney Stones?
For kidney stone pain relief you will be asked to take narcotic medications and other kinds such as:
- Naproxen sodium - pain
- Ibuprofen – pain
- Acetaminophen - pain
- Allopurinol- Uric acid stones
- Phosphorus solutions- preventive measure for calcium oxalate stones
- Thiazide diuretic- preventive measure for calcium stones
- Sodium citrate/bicarbonate- to lower urine acidity levels
- Antibiotics - if you have developed a urinary infection
Kidney Stones Treatment without surgery
There are two types of kidney stone treatment methods that do not involve surgery. These are
- Panchakarma: This is a cleansing process that eliminates toxins from the body and restores the body’s capability to self-heal. About 95% of renal stones can be broken up by undergoing panchakarma.
- Herbs and Medicine: This involves drinking lots of fluids, following a balanced lifestyle, consuming a nutritious diet and controlling the quality of urine which prevents ashmari. Herbs that are effective for kidney stone treatment are Punarnava (boerhaavia diffusa), shugru (moringa oleifera), kushmanda seeds (benincasa hispida cong), varuna (crataeva nurvala), kantkari (solanum xanthocarpum), bakul (mimusops elengi), jasmine and coriander.
This is a non-surgical procedure that uses extracorporeal shock waves to break down the stones into tiny grain-like particles akin to sand particles. It is a laser procedure that uses high-energy shock waves which are passed through the body. The size of the stones becomes so small that they can be quickly passed through the body via urine.
What are the surgical treatments for Kidney Stones?
Surgery is the best and most effective method for quick and complete kidney stones resolution. Undergoing surgery will spare you from the discomfort of having to live with kidney stones in your urinary tract every day.
On top of that, if the stones are very large, you will not be able to remove them through your urine. To resolve this, there are 3 types of surgical procedures aside from Lithotripsy which uses shock waves to break down the huge stones. Although Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) is a laser procedure it is categorised as a non-surgical method.
- Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy
- Lighted Tube (ureteroscope)
- Parathyroid Gland Surgery
What is the procedure of Kidney Stones surgery?
If you are eager to know how the procedure works for each of the three surgery types mentioned above, keep reading:
- Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy
A tiny incision will be made in your back. With the help of a small telescope, surgical tools will be inserted through this opening, and the kidney stone will be removed. During the treatment, you will be administered general anaesthesia and kept back at the hospital for one or two nights. This surgery is usually recommended only if ESWL fails.
- Parathyroid Gland Surgery
If the cause of your kidney stone is due to an overactive parathyroid gland that produces hormones in excess (hyperparathyroidism) the doctor may recommend this procedure. This is due to the reason that hyperparathyroidism is caused by a benign tumour that makes the glands produce too much parathyroid hormone. This will lead to the formation of calcium phosphate stones. In order to restrict the development of kidney stones, the removal of the growth from the parathyroid gland is essential.
- Lighted Tube (Ureteroscope)
If the stone is small and you are unable to pass it through urine, the doctor will recommend this procedure. The method involves a lighted tube with an attached camera that is passed through the urethra and bladder into the ureter. After the location of the stone is confirmed, tools will be used to break down the main stone into several tiny passes that can now easily pass through your urine.
How long does it take to recover from Kidney Stones?
When you undergo treatment including surgery under expert doctors who are medically trained to handle such cases you can expect recovery with zero complications within six weeks of surgery for complete internal healing.
What is the cost of Kidney Stones treatments in India?
You can expect to get quality treatment for kidney stone removal within INR 30,000 in India.
Are the results of the treatment permanent?
If you undergo kidney stone surgery then there is a 99% chance that the results of your treatment will be successful. However, as a follow-up, you need to continue medications, manage your weight and continue a healthy and balanced diet to ensure that there is no recurrence.
Who is eligible for the kidney stone treatment?
Since kidney stones are most prevalent amongst people aged 25-45, everyone belonging to this age group is eligible to undergo this treatment unless they have other comorbidities that need to be consulted with their healthcare provider.
Who is not eligible for the kidney stone treatment?
Everyone is eligible unless advised otherwise by your physician
What are the post-treatment guidelines for kidney stone treatment?
- Continue to drink plenty amount of fluid to maintain your urine flow
- No driving cars for about two weeks after the surgery
- No exercising and climbing stairs for about four weeks prior to the surgery
- Do not strain yourself during bowel movements and take laxatives in case of constipation symptoms
What are side-effects of Kidney Stones treatments?
A kidney stone surgery is completely safe and causes little or no side effects. However, if you pass kidney stones at home without opting for surgical treatment you can experience the following after effects:
- Soreness and discomfort
- Mild swelling caused by the stone that has passed
- A kidney stone recurrence
- If there is a second stone blocking the ureter or if there is inflammation, you will have trouble urinating and the urine will eventually back up causing significant damage to the kidneys
- If the doctor recommends narcotics or opioids for kidney stone pain relief you will experience constipation as a side effect
Kidney Stones - Outlook / Prognosis
The overall outlook of kidney stone treatment is very positive especially if surgery is opted for. There is little chance of recurrence with surgery combined with consistent maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Medications and surgical procedures that go into treating kidney stones require very little recovery time and are successful.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How to pass a kidney stone in 24 hours?
How to pass kidney stones fast?
How to pass kidney stones fast at home?
Is kidney stone dangerous?
Can kidney stones cause gastrointestinal problems?
How to relieve kidney stone pain instantly?
Is beer good for kidney stones?
Is milk bad for kidney stones?
What dissolves kidney stones fast?
- Kidney Stones- Medline Plus, Health Topics, NIH, U.S. National Library of Medicine [Internet]. medlineplus.gov 2019 [Cited 06 August 2019]. Available from:
- Kidney stones - what to ask your doctor- Medline Plus, Medical Encyclopedia, NIH, U.S. National Library of Medicine [Internet]. medlineplus.gov 2019 [Cited 06 August 2019]. Available from:
- Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones- NIH, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [Internet]. niddk.nih.gov 2017 [Cited 06 August 2019]. Available from:
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