Ramy M. Hanna MD and Huma Hasnain MD
UCLA – South Bay Nephrology
Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis, are one of the most common causes for urgent care, emergency room and primary care visits. Nephrolithiasis, the technical term, is Greek for kidney stones or kidney pebbles. Kidney stones are prevalent in approximately 10.1% of men and 7.1 % of women in the United States, the number of people affected by this condition seems to be rising. Kidney stones usually cause extreme pain and can lead to a severe infections and even kidney function decline, if left untreated. Kidney stones occur as a result of biochemical abnormalities in the blood and/or urine, this can be the result of genetic, dietary, and/or environmental factors. Evaluation by a nephrologist, a kidney specialist can help prevent recurring kidney stones.
Kidney stones are the result of an abnormal amount of electrolytes or chemicals in the urine. Since urine volume is not constant, the electrolytes in the urine are measured by their concentration.
The higher the urinary concentration of certain chemicals, the higher the likelihood of the formation of kidney stones. For example, any process that increases the concentration of calcium and other chemicals in urine to a critical point (called super saturation) makes it more likely that stones will form. Once a stone forms the chemicals continue to deposit on the initial deposited stone allowing the stone to grow.
Factors that increase the risk of developing kidney stones include:
The classical symptom of a kidney stone is pain in the side or flank that can radiate down to the groin. The pain is severe, cramping and constant. Kidney stones can result in a wide array of symptoms including blood in the urine (hematuria), flank pain, pain with urination, nausea, vomiting, fevers, and chills.
Some kidney stones are as small as a grain of sand, others are larger. In general, the larger the stone, the more noticeable are the symptoms. You start to experience symptoms when the stone moves from the kidney to the ureter, the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder.
More Symptoms include:
Each year, more than half a million people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems. It is estimated that one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some time in their lives.
There are four main types of stones:
Stones are treated based on several factors including the severity of pain, the location of the stone, and the presence of infection. Most patients can be treated at home, while others require admission to the hospital. Pain medications, anti-nausea medications, intravenous fluids, and sometimes antibiotics are required for treatment. The presence of an obstruction of the urinary tract is a major factor in deciding whether surgery or other procedures are needed. If a stone is deemed too large to pass on its own, is extremely painful, or is obstructing a surgical procedure or other procedural attempts to dislodge/break up the stone maybe indicated. These are usually performed by urologists who are the surgical specialists of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.
Stones that are too large or causing severe symptoms need more extensive therapy like:
Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup should be limited to small quantities
lf you have had one stone, you are at increased risk of having another stone. Those who have developed one stone are at approximately 50% risk for developing another within 5 to 7 years.
Disclaimer: The UCLA Health System cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information. The information is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. Please speak to your Physician before making any changes.