Kidney stones are a common but painful urinary tract disorder that affects over 3 million people in the United States each year. A kidney stone is a hardened mass of mineral and acid salts that separates from the urine and travels through the urinary tract. The urine normally dilutes and dissolves these substances, but when the composition of urine is unbalanced, crystallized stones can form.
There are several different types of kidney stones made up of different components found in the urine. Some of the most common stones are made up of calcium, struvite, uric acid and cystine. Most kidney stones cause terrible pain as they move through the urinary tract and into the ureter. Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the lower side and back
- Pain radiating to the abdomen and groin
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Painful urination
Kidney stones can be identified on X-rays even when they do not form symptoms. Blood and urine tests may also be used to diagnose this condition. Treatment is not always necessary because many kidney stones pass on their own after drinking plenty of water. Pain medication may be given to relieve symptoms. Larger stones that cannot pass on their own may require more aggressive methods such as shock wave therapy or surgery. These measures, as well as certain medications, can help prevent kidney stones if they occur often.