Kidney stones, also called renal calculi, are microscopic crystals that over a period of time develop in the urinary system. Kidney stones form because of an unbalance of liquids and dissolved solids in the urine. They can vary in size, ranging from specks to pebbles to golf balls.
Some common symptoms of a kidney stone is pain in the right or left sides of the back, abdominal pain, burning during urination, blood in the urine, increased frequency to urinate and nausea or vomiting.
Diagnosis of a kidney stone involves a medical history, physical examination, urine test and blood test. X-rays, CT scans or ultrasounds may be taken to estimate the size of the stone and where it is located. This information will help determine which treatment option will be most appropriate.
Treatment depends on the size and type of stone. Stones that are 4 mm and smaller will pass in the urine spontaneously 90% of the time; stones sized 5-7 mm will pass in the urine 50% of the time; and stones larger than 7 mm rarely pass without intervention. Physical activity and medication may aid in passing a stone. Patients are asked to urinate into a strainer to collect the stone(s) for analysis. For those stones that do not pass on their own, a procedure or surgery will need to be done to eliminate them.
There is a 50% chance that a person will experience another kidney stone within five years. In order to prevent this, it is suggested to have a comprehensive examination including a 24-hour urine and blood tests to determine what specific causes are responsible for the current and possible future kidney stones. Increased fluid intake, changes in diet and medication may be prescribed to reduce the risk of recurrence.