If you suffer from kidney stones, you know how painful they can be. Our urologists are dedicated to finding the cause, treating and helping you prevent kidney stones.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are small, pebble-like objects made up of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. Most of the time, kidney stones form when your urine becomes highly concentrated, causing the minerals to stick together.
Kidney stones can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder — and can happen to anyone.
Symptoms of kidney stones
If you have a kidney stone, you may not know it until it moves around your kidney or heads toward your bladder through a tube called the ureter. Symptoms may vary and can range from mild to severe. They may include:
- Severe pain in your side or back, below your ribs
- Pain in your lower abdomen or groin
- Pain when you urinate and/or needing to urinate more often
- Pain that comes and goes, ranging in severity
- Urine that is pink, red, brown, cloudy or foul-smelling
- Nausea and vomiting
Risk factors for kidney stones
Certain lifestyle habits, genetics and risk factors can increase your chances of developing kidney stones. These include:
- Family history: If someone in your family has had kidney stones, you’re more likely to have them, too.
- Personal history: If you’ve had kidney stones before, you’re more likely to have them again.
- Not drinking enough water: Not drinking enough water can increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Dehydration can lead to low urine volume and dark, concentrated urine. Concentrated urine doesn’t have enough fluid to dissolve the minerals and salts, which can cause kidney stones to form.
- Diet: Eating a diet high in protein, sodium (salt) and/or sugar can increase your risk. Eating too much salt increases the amount of calcium your kidneys must filter, which increases your chances of developing a kidney stone.
- Being overweight or obese: A higher body mass index has been linked to an increased risk of developing kidney stones.
- Digestive issues and surgery: Having had gastric bypass surgery or having inflammatory bowel disease can increase your risk.
- Other risk factors: Other factors that can increase your risk of developing kidney stones include being male, having Type 2 diabetes or gout or taking certain medications, such as diuretics and antacids.
Diagnosing kidney stones
Our highly trained team of urology specialists are experienced in diagnosing, treating and helping you prevent kidney stones.
If your doctor thinks you might have kidney stones, he or she will discuss your symptoms and any medications you may take and may want to perform tests to diagnose kidney stones. These tests may include:
- Imaging tests – Your doctor might perform an X-ray, a more in-depth computed tomography (CT) scan or an ultrasound to get a closer look. These tests can help your doctor see how big your kidney stone is and where it’s located in your body.
- Blood tests – Blood tests can tell your doctor if you have a high amount of certain substances in your blood, such as uric acid or calcium, which commonly cause kidney stones to form.
- Urine tests – Your doctor might collect a urine sample to see if you have kidney stone-forming minerals in your urine. This test can also show if you have too few kidney stone-preventing substances in your urine.
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Treatment for kidney stones
If it’s determined that you have kidney stones, your urologist will start the appropriate treatment right away. Treatment for kidney stones may vary and often depends on your symptoms and the size of the stone.
If you have a small stone and aren’t experiencing a lot of symptoms, your doctor may suggest that you wait and see if the stone passes on its own. Your doctor may suggest the following to ease any discomfort:
If your kidney stone is too large to pass or you’re in a lot of pain, have an infection or your stone is stopping you from passing urine, your doctor may suggest one of the following procedures:
If your kidney stone is large or wasn’t broken up enough during shock wave lithotripsy, your doctor may suggest one of these surgeries to remove it.
During these procedures, your surgeon will make a small cut on your side or back and use a thin tube to remove the stone or use sound waves to break up the kidney stone and remove it with a vacuum.
Kidney stone care at Geisinger
Our urology team is here to provide you and your loved ones with compassionate care and the most advanced treatments available. We offer the latest, most minimally invasive procedures for both diagnosis and treatment. Quicker recovery and less time in the hospital means more time for you to do the things you love with those you love.
- Unmatched expertise – Our urology team consists of surgeons and specialists, many of whom are fellowship trained. This highly experienced team of specialists provides care for patients with urologic diseases and conditions, including those affecting the male and female urinary tract system and the male reproductive organs.
- Minimally invasive treatment options – To minimize discomfort and get you back to the life you love, our urologists treat with the least invasive procedures when possible. Robotic surgery, for example, requires smaller incisions, which means less pain and faster recovery time. Our urologists have performed more than 2,000 robotic urological surgery procedures — more than any other healthcare provider in the region. We routinely perform complex procedures that are often unable to be performed elsewhere in the area, including robotic prostatectomies for prostate cancer.
- World-class care, close to home – With locations throughout central, northeast and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced urology team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.
- Genetic testing and counseling programs – Special research programs such as MyCode®, are only available at Geisinger. Participating in MyCode allows you to contribute to genetic research. By participating, some may receive information about their own genetic risks. Learn about MyCode.