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What Exactly is a Kidney Stone?

Posted July 13, 2018 by Joseph S Dankoff, MD Summa Health Medical Group - Urology

Kidney Stones

A kidney stone is a solid, stone-like deposit made of minerals and salt that can form in one or both of your kidneys. These deposits can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pebble.

Did you know there are actually four different types of kidney stones?

  1. Calcium stones: This is the most common stone and is a form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a naturally occurring substance found in some fruits, vegetables, nuts and chocolates. Your liver also produces oxalate.
  2. Uric acid stones: These form in people who either don’t drink enough fluid or lose too much throughout the day. Individuals who suffer from gout also experience these types of stones.
  3. Struvite stones: This type of stone often forms in response to an infection, usually a urinary tract infection, and grows quickly and quite large. Due to their size, these stones require immediate medical attention.
  4. Cystine stones: These form in people with a very rare hereditary disorder known as cystinuria. This disorder causes the kidneys to produce too much of an amino acid known as cysteine.

While these deposits don’t have specific causes, several factors can increase your risk of developing kidney stones:

  • Dehydration: If you are not getting your eight glasses of water a day, you’re at a higher risk.
  • Family and personal history: If an immediate family member experiences kidney stones or if you have had one, your risk increases for more in the future.
  • Weight: Individuals with a high body mass index and large waist size have a higher chance of developing kidney stones.
  • Eating habits: Certain diets that are high in protein, sugar and especially sodium can increase the amount of calcium your kidneys have to process, increasing your risk.

Some stones can pass without you even knowing they were there. Most symptoms of a kidney stone are not actually felt until it moves. And when it does, you’ll know! Symptoms include sharp pain in your back, abdomen, groin or sides.

Smaller stones may be resolved with an increase in fluids to help pass them through the urinary tract. But those that do not, if not treated by a healthcare professional, can affect any part of your urinary tract, including the bladder and kidneys. The stone can become lodged in the urinary tract and block the flow of urine.

If you experience any of the following severe symptoms, contact your primary care physician immediately:

  • Blood in urine (pink, red or brown in color)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Unmanageable pain in the side and back
  • Large fluctuations in intensity of the pain in any area
  • Inability to urinate without extreme pain

Your urologist will use a combination of urine, blood and imaging tests to confirm the presence of a stone. Depending on the size of the mass, your physician may recommend fluids and pain relievers for mild cases. For more serious issues, there is an option called ESWL or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. That translates to using sound waves to break up the stones, making them smaller and easier to pass naturally. In extreme cases, surgery may be required to prevent permanent damage to the urinary tract.

When you come to see the physicians at Summa Health Medical Group – Urology, you can be confident that you’re being seen by compassionate, fellowship-trained urologists who can treat a range of issues including kidney stones, infertility, cancer and female pelvic medicine. Our physicians provide urology services that utilize innovative therapies, treatments, minimally invasive techniques and robotic surgery.

Summa Health urologists will also work with your primary care physician to make sure all your health needs are being fully discussed and treated.

For more information on kidney stones, contact the Summa Health Urology Team at 330.374.1255 or visit 


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