Kidney stones are one of the most painful and common disorders of the urinary tract. A kidney stone is a solid mass of crystals that forms from excreted substances in the urine. One or more kidney stones may form simultaneously and remain in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. Kidney stones may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as golf balls.
Smaller stones may pass out of the body without problems or even being noticed but, larger stones can get stuck in a ureter, the bladder or the urethra. This may prevent urine from flowing and cause great pain. Approximately 1 million people in the United States are treated for kidney stones each year.
Kidney stones develop from crystals that separate from urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. Normally, urine contains chemicals that prevent or inhibit the crystals from forming. However, in some people, stones still form.
The most common causes of kidney stones are gastrointestinal disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and a metabolic disorder, such as hyperparathyroidism. In other words, changes in the way a person's body metabolizes food and drink lead to an increased likelihood of developing crystals and, in turn, stone disease.
Kidney stone symptoms may include:
- Extreme, sharp pain in the back or side that will not go away
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cloudy or odorous urine
- Frequent urination
- A burning feeling during urination
- Fever and chills
Prompt medical attention for kidney stones is necessary. Kidney stone symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems, do always consult a physician for a diagnosis.