Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys. They can affect any part of the urinary tract, which includes the ureters, urethra and bladder. For example, kidney stones that develop and become lodged in the ureter are referred to as ureteral stones. Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.
Passing kidney stones can be quite painful, but the stones usually cause no permanent damage if they're recognized in a timely fashion. Depending on the situation, a patient may need nothing more than to take pain medication and drink lots of water to pass a kidney stone. In other instances, such as when stones become lodged in the urinary tract, are associated with a urinary infection or cause complications, surgery may be needed.
Kidney stones usually do not cause symptoms until they move around within the kidneys or pass through the ureters. If it becomes lodged in the ureters, it may block the flow of urine and cause the kidney to swell and the ureter to spasm, which can be very painful. At that point, you may experience these signs and symptoms:
- Severe, sharp pain in the side and back, below the ribs
- Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
- Pain or burning sensation while urinating
Diet, excess body weight, some medical conditions and certain supplements and medications are among the many causes of kidney stones. Factors that increase your risk of developing them include:
- Family or personal history
- Certain diets
- Digestive diseases and surgery
- Certain supplements and medications