8 Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones + How to Boost Kidney Health

7 minute read

If you’re experiencing some pain or irregular urination, you might wonder if you have kidney stones. This is not an unrealistic assumption, as it’s estimated that more than a million people in the United States go to emergency rooms for kidney stones annually and that about 10% of the population will have a kidney stone in their lifetime.

Kidney stones are a widespread issue. While a kidney stone is not fatal, it can be extremely painful and may or may not resolve on its own. It’s best to see a doctor if you believe you have a kidney stone to make sure there is no underlying kidney problems.

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones occur when there isn’t enough fluid in urine and other waste products don’t quite dissolve, instead they begin to form crystals. When a crystal forms, other solids are attracted to it, and it gets larger. Most crystals are made from calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine, and phosphate.

Once a stone has formed, it can either stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract into the ureter.

Tiny stones can pass through the body and out with the urine without too much pain and without medical intervention. Large kidney stones can get stuck along the route and then cause a painful backup.

Types of Kidney Stones

There are a few different types of kidney stones, and knowing which type you have can help you determine what caused it and give you some potential options for preventing them in the future.

Calcium stones are made of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. Oxalate is found naturally in some foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and chocolate. Oxalate is also made by your liver.

Phosphate stones are more common in people who have metabolic conditions. It may also be associated with migraine headaches and some seizure medications.

Struvite stones form as a response to an infection, typically a urinary tract infection. These stones grow quickly and can become quite large.

Uric acid stones are a sign that you don’t drink enough fluids, you’ve lost too much fluid or you’re on a high-protein diet. They can also affect people with gout or with certain genetic factors.

Cystine stones happen if you have a particular hereditary disorder that makes your kidneys produce too much amino acids.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

Because each person is different, there can be different reasons for getting kidney stones and the reactions and treatment may be different, too. But the following risk factors can mean you’re more susceptible to kidney stones.

A history of kidney stones in your family or having them in your past means you’re more likely to experience them.

Dehydration leaves your body vulnerable to kidney stones as there’s no enough fluid in the urine to move all of the waste through. Staying hydrated is important for numerous reasons, and hot water can also be very helpful.

Diet can play a big role in the creation of kidney stones. A diet too high in proteins, salt, and sugar can cause kidney stones.

Obesity, high body mass index, large waist size and rapid weight gain have all been linked to an increased potential for forming kidney stones.

Disease or surgery can prompt the formation of kidney stones, especially if there’s an issue with the digestive system. But other conditions that make you susceptible are renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism, and urinary tract infections.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones

When you have a kidney stone, it feels very large but some of them can be as small as a grain of sand and typically do not get any bigger than a pebble. There have been some incredibly large kidney stones recorded, but that is definitely the exception and not the case for most people.

Because there is a size variance, the severity of your symptoms can change from one bout to another and from one person to another. Also, the fact that they may be in different parts of your body can affect the symptoms. Be aware of the following:

♦ Pain in back, belly, or side

♦ Urgent need to urinate

♦ Only a small amount of urine passes

♦ Pain and/or burning during urination

♦ Cloudy or strong-smelling urine

♦ Blood in urine

♦ Nausea and vomiting

♦ Fever and chills

If you have one or more than one of these symptoms and you suspect kidney stones are the cause, see your doctor and begin drinking more fluids in an attempt to flush it out.

| Related: Urine Color Meanings: Dehydration & Disease + Health Tips |

It is a good idea to begin straining your urine so you can bring the stone to your doctor and then you can find out what kind of stone it is and what the potential cause might be.

Decrease Your Risk of Kidney Stones

Whether you have had a kidney stone or you’ve never had one and don’t want to have one, you can do the following to decrease the risk of having one.

♦ Drink enough fluid that your urine is very light yellow or clear
Focus on drinking water

♦ Avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup

♦ Eat more fruits and vegetables that are not associated with uric acid

♦ Decrease your animal protein consumption

♦ Reduce your salt intake

♦ If you are overweight, try to lose weight with a balanced diet and at a reasonable speed

♦ Discuss diet changes with your doctor

The Bottom Line

There are several different types of kidney stones and each has a different cause. Because each person is different, their reactions to kidney stone risk factors will be unique and the severity of kidney stones will vary also.

If you want to prevent a kidney stone, there are some things you can do. The most important is to increase your water intake so that the fluid in your urine is adequate enough to flush out all of the waste.

READ NEXT >>> Is Eating Extra Protein Bad for Your Kidneys?