Kidney Stones

kidney-stone-xrayKidney stones are actual stones composed of tiny crystals. One or more of these stones can be in the kidney or ureter at the same time. Kidney stones are common. Some types of kidney stones run in families and have been known to occur in premature infants.

Our Los Angeles urologists want you to know that the biggest risk factor for kidney stones is failing to drink enough fluids. Kidney stones are more likely to occur if you make less than 1 liter of urine a day. That’s slightly more than a quart.


There are different types of kidney stones. They can take weeks or months to form, and they do so when your urine contains too much of certain substances that combine to create small crystals that become stones.

The main types of kidney stones are as follows:

  • Calcium stones
  • Cystine stones
  • Struvite stones
  • Uric Stones

Calcium stones are most common type of kidney stone and mostly occur to men in their 20s. Calcium combines with other substances, such as oxalate (found in spinach and Vitamin C supplements), phosphate, or carbonate to form the stone. Diseases of the small intestine increase your risk of these stones.

Cystine stones can form in people who have a genetic disorder called cystinuria that affects both men and women.

Struvite stones are prone to women with urinary tract infections. Struvite stones have been known to grow very large and can even block major organs like the kidney, ureter, or bladder.

Uric acid stones are found more commonly in males than females and can occur with gout or chemotherapy. Other substances known to form stones include medications acyclovir, indinavir, and triamterene.


Symptoms don’t often present themselves until kidney stones begin to move down the ureters, which are the tubes that carry urine into the bladder. The most common symptom of kidney stones is severe pain that can start suddenly and possibly go away suddenly. This pain can be felt in the belly, side of the back, groin area or testicles.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal or back soreness
  • Abnormal urine color
  • Blood in the urine
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If patients experience these symptoms, our Beverly Hills urologists will want to do a physical exam. Tests that may be performed include:

  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Abdominal/kidney MRI
  • Abdominal X-rays
  • Blood tests to check calcium, phosphorus, uric acid, and electrolyte levels
  • Examination of the stone to determine the type
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
  • Kidney function tests
  • Kidney ultrasound
  • Retrograde pyelogram
  • Urinalysis to see crystals and look for red blood cells in urine


Some kidney stones, if they are small enough, will pass on their own. If the stone passes, it should be saved and tested by a doctor. Patients should be advised to drink lots of water (at least six to eight glasses of water per day) to produce a large amount of urine.

If pain is severe enough, narcotic pain relievers may be prescribed. If the pain is too great, you may need to stay in a hospital where fluids can be provided through an IV.

Some stones can be attacked with prescription medication. There are drugs that can decrease stone formation and help break down or remove the material causing the stone. These medications can include:

  • Allopurinol (for uric acid stones)
  • Antibiotics (for struvite stones)
  • Diuretics
  • Phosphate solutions
  • Sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate
  • Water pills (thiazide diuretics)


In some kidney stone cases, surgery will be necessary but only if the follow occur:

  • The kidney stone is too big to pass on its own.
  • The kidney stone is growing.
  • The kidney stone is blocking the flow of urine and causing an infection or kidney damage.
  • Pain cannot be controlled.

Today, most treatments are much less invasive than in the past.

Extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy is a procedure that uses sound or shock waves to break up kidney stones that are slightly smaller than a half an inch and located near the kidney or ureter. If successful, the kidney stones leave the body in urine.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is an endoscopic surgical procedure that’s used for large stones in or near the kidney. The stone is removed via tube (endoscope) that is inserted into the kidney through a small surgical cut. Ureteroscopy is an option for kidney stones in the ureter.


Kidney stones are painful but can usually be removed without causing permanent damage. Unfortunately, kidney stones can reoccur, especially if the cause is not found and treated. If treatment is significantly delayed, damage to the kidney or other serious complications can occur. These complications include:

  • Decrease or loss of function in the affected kidney
  • Kidney damage, scarring
  • Obstruction of the ureter (acute unilateral obstructive uropathy)
  • Recurrence of stones
  • Urinary tract infection

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of a kidney stone. Also call if symptoms return, urination becomes painful, urine output decreases, or other new symptoms develop. If you have a history of stones, drink plenty of fluids (six to eight glasses of water per day) to produce enough urine. Depending on the type of stone, you might need medications or diet changes to prevent the stones from coming back.

You may also contact the La Peer Department of Urology today at (855) 360-9119 if you experience any symptoms of a kidney stone. Our Beverly Hills kidney stone surgeons are well trained and can help treat your condition.

Next, read about Kidney Cancer.