About the Kidneys and Kidney Stones

The kidney is really a filter for your blood. This not only removes wastes products but regulates electrolytes and of course makes urine. In the kidney, ureter and bladder chemicals within the urine can crystallize forming a stone if the urine is too concentrated. These stones are very tiny when they form but grow over time to an inch or larger.

Urolithiasis means stones in the urinary tract, while nephrolithiasis (nephro = kidney) refers to kidney stones and ureterolithiasis refers to stones within the ureter. The size of the stone and where it is located and whether it obstructs urine is most important. A stone in the kidney will not typically cause pain in the ureter unless it is blocking and causes a pressure back up into the kidney. The kidney will then swell, causing pain and nausea.


Types of Kidney Stones

The stone-forming substances are:

  • Calcium
  • Oxalate
  • Urate
  • Cysteine
  • Xanthine
  • Phosphate
Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones

  • Pain in the lower back or flank of body
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain when urinating
  • Unable to urinate
  • Feeling the need to urinate more often
Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Risks for developing kidney stones include:

  • Dehydration
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Blockage of urine in the urinary tract
  • Family history of kidney stones

Health conditions that affect the levels of the substances in the urine that can cause stones to form:

  • Hypercalciuria, which is high calcium levels in the urine
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Gout
  • Kidney cysts
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Parathyroid disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Some surgical procedures, including weight loss surgery or other stomach/intestine surgeries


  • Crixivan ® (used to treat HIV infections)
  • Topamax ® and Dilantin ® (used to treat seizures)

Diagnosis of Kidney Stones

Diagnosis starts with a physical exam and review of your medical history.

Other tests include:

  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • Imaging tests: kidney ultrasound, X-rays, and gold standing the CT scan

When to See a Provider

Submit an online appointment request or call 310-582-7137 if you have any signs and symptoms that worry you.