Kidney Stones: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Medically known as renal lithiasis or nephrolithiasis, kidney stones are hard, mineral deposits that develop in the kidneys. The stones are small and are made of acid salts. This condition affects the urinary tract – including the kidneys and bladder. It’s caused by urine becoming too concentrated to a point where crystals form and stick together.

Sometimes, the stones dislodge themselves from the kidneys and pass through the ureter. This is extremely painful but should not cause any damage to the organs. In some cases, the stones are too large to pass, medications are needed to remove them. But if a too-large kidney stone is lodged in the urinary tract, it will require surgery to remove it.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

The most common symptom of kidney stones is excruciating pain in the side of the back, just below the ribs. The pain will gradually spread to the groin and lower abdomen. The pain makes it hard to urinate. The urine takes on a cloudy, dark brown or red color. It also develops a foul smell. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. The severity of the pain will fluctuate time after time.

Treating Kidney Stones

Drink More Water

Passing kidney stones is a very painful affair. The pain increases intensity as the stone moves through the urinary tract. In such cases, drink a lot of fluids. This will help flush out the kidney stones faster.


To dull the pain, you can also take painkillers. Your doctor could recommend ibuprofen acetaminophen or naproxen sodium. Do not self-medicate. If you feel an intense pain in the lower abdomen, consult your doctor right away before taking any medication.

Medical Therapy

If the kidney stone is too large to pass the urinary tract unassisted, your doctor could administer alpha blockers to relax the ureter muscles. When the ureter is relaxed, the kidney stone will pass faster and with less pain.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

For larger kidney stones, no medication will help. Your doctor could recommend sound waves to break down the large stone into tiny bits. This procedure is called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy or ESWL. This procedure is reserved only for cases wherein internal bleeding or kidney damage are a possibility.


If all else fail, the kidney stones are removed through surgery. This procedure is called nephrolithotomy. Using small telescopes, the kidney stone is removed through an incision in the back. Nephrolithotomy will require general anesthesia. Recovery time is around two to three days of hospitalization.


Hydration is a must to prevent kidney stones. You want to cut back on foods rich in oxalate. These foods include okra, beets, sweet potatoes, chocolates and soy products. In addition, take on a low-sodium diet. Salt and animal protein increase the likelihood of kidney stone formation.

Finally, boost your consumption of calcium-rich foods. Some research found that calcium deficient patients are more susceptible to kidney stone formation.

Your doctor might also advise you to take certain drugs to prevent or break down kidney stones. These drugs include thiazide diuretic to prevent calcium stones and allopurinol to remove uric acid stones.