How to Prevent and Treat Kidney Stones

An estimated one in ten people will develop kidney stones during their lifetime, and half a million individuals will visit an emergency department each year because of these painful formations. People of just about any age, including children, are increasingly falling victim to kidney stones. Nineteen percent of men and nine percent of women can expect to have a kidney stone. Why are so many people getting “stoned” and what can you do about it?

Between the late 1970s and the late 2000s, the prevalence of kidney stones in the United States increased from 3.8 percent to 8.8 percent. One segment of the population that has seen an increase in kidney stones in children. In addition, new research has established a link between the formation of kidney stones in kids and subsequent development of atherosclerosis.

What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hard objects that form from chemicals in urine, including calcium, cysteine, oxalate, phosphate, urate, and xanthine. Recently, new research has suggested that the mineral zinc is involved in the formation of kidney stones as well.

Most people have enough liquid to wash away the chemical waste before stone formation can begin. However, when the amount of waste in urine is too high, crystals can form and attract other elements to them, which then form a solid stone that continues to grow unless it is eliminated from the body during urination.

In fact, it’s possible to have one or more minute stones (the size of a grain of sand) that are washed out of the kidneys with little to no pain. Some people are not even aware they passed the stones. However, in other cases the stones form, grow larger (up to the size of a golf ball), and do not pass on their own. In some cases, kidney stones can cause of backup of urine in the kidney, bladder, ureter, or urethra, which can be extremely painful.

Location, location, location
When stones are in the kidney, the condition is referred to as nephrolithiasis (nephron = kidney; lithiasis = stone). Sometimes the stones get into the urinary tract, which is called urolithiasis. Stones that become lodged in the ureter is a condition called ureterolithiasis. The size of the stones don’t matter as much as where they are located, because even a tiny stone can obstruct or block urine.

For example, a kidney stone in the kidney usually doesn’t cause a problem, but if it gets into the ureter, it can block the flow of urine, cause a buildup of pressure behind the stone, and result in a swollen kidney. This pressure causes kidney stone pain, but it also helps to push the stone along the ureter. Once the stone is pushed into the bladder, the blockage is gone and the pain associated with the kidney stone usually goes away.


By Deborah Mitchell| October 07, 2015
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently she lives in Tucson, Arizona. Visit her at

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