Kidney stones are made of salts and minerals in the urine that
stick together to form small "pebbles." They are usually painless while they
remain in the kidney, but they can cause severe pain as they travel through the
ureters (narrow tubes that connect the kidneys and the bladder) to exit the
body during urination.
Symptoms of a kidney stone include severe
pain on one side of the back, just below the rib cage (flank pain). The pain
may spread to the lower abdomen, groin, and genital area. Other symptoms
include blood in the urine (hematuria), painful or frequent urination
(dysuria), and nausea and vomiting.
A kidney stone is usually
treated at home with pain medicine until it has passed. Make sure you drink
enough fluid so that you don't get dehydrated. Most of the time, the stone will
pass in a few days. If the stone seems unlikely to pass on its own or is
causing severe pain, treatment options include a shock wave treatment
(lithotripsy), which can break up a large stone into smaller pieces that are
easier to pass, or, in very rare cases, surgery.
If a stone is
stuck in a ureter, a long, thin viewing tool (ureteroscope) can be passed through
the urethra and bladder to the ureter. The stone may be taken out using a tiny
basket on a wire passed through the ureteroscope. The stone can also be broken
up using laser and then flushed out of the ureter with fluids inserted through
There are four main types of kidney stones, and
they can be as small as grains of sand or as large as a golf ball. Kidney
stones occur most often in adults and are rare in children.