A kidney stone is solid material that forms in a kidney when high levels of certain substances collect in the urine. These substances are normally present and do not cause problems at lower levels. A stone may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract. Kidney stones vary in size. A small stone may pass on its own, causing little or no pain. A larger stone may get stuck along the urinary tract. A stone that gets stuck can block the flow of urine, causing severe pain or bleeding.
You may have a kidney stone if you:
- Have pain while urinating
- See blood in your urine
- Feel a sharp pain in your back or lower abdomen
This pain may be short or last a long time. It may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
You should call your Ohio State doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Extreme pain in your back or lower abdomen that won’t go away
- Blood in your urine
- Fever and chills
- Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
- Pain when you urinate
To diagnose kidney stones, your Ohio State doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history. The doctor may ask if you have a family history of kidney stones and about your diet, digestive problems or other health problems. The doctor may perform urine, blood, and imaging tests to complete the diagnosis.
- Urine tests can show whether you have an infection or your urine contains substances that form stones.
- Blood tests can show problems that lead to kidney stones.
- Imaging tests are used to find the location of kidney stones in your body. The tests may also be able to show problems that caused a kidney stone to form.
Ohio State provides personalized care to meet your individual needs. If you are diagnosed with kidney stones, your treatment will depend on the size of the stones, what they are made of and your symptoms.
Small stones usually do not need treatment. Still, you may need pain medicine or you may be started on medical expulsion therapy to speed up the rate of stone passage. You should also drink lots of fluids to help move the stone along. If you are vomiting often or don’t drink enough fluids, you may need to go to the hospital for fluid replacement.
If you have a large kidney stone or your urinary tract is blocked, the urologist can remove the stone or break it into small pieces with the following treatments:
- Shock-wave lithotripsy – Your Ohio State urologist can use a shock wave machine to crush the kidney stone. The shock waves go from the machine through your body to the stone. The smaller pieces of the stone then pass through your urinary tract.
- Ureteroscopy – Your Ohio State urologist uses a long, tube-like tool with an eyepiece, called a ureteroscope, to find the stone. The tool is fed into the urethra and through the bladder to the ureter. Once the stone is found, the urologist can remove it or can break it into smaller pieces with laser energy.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) – a surgical procedure to remove stones from the kidney by a small opening through the skin.