Nephrolithiasis

What is nephrolithiasis?

Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis, is a common condition in which hard collections form in the tube between the kidney and the bladder. Kidney stones are more common in men than in women, and tend to occur in adults between the ages of 20 and 50. Symptoms occur when a stone leaves the kidney and enters the tighter ureter (the tube between the kidney and bladder) on its way to the bladder. Typical symptoms are severe pain in the back and belly, difficulty urinating and red or brown urine. Common treatment methods include good hydration, pain relief and sometimes lithotripsy (breaking up the stone with shock waves). Most people recover fully without any complications.

Risks

Kidney stones are more common in men, and in adults between 20 and 50 years of age. It is very rare in children. Kidney stones are also more common in people who have gout or who have a family member who also suffers from kidney stones. Infections of the urinary tract may also lead to kidney stones. Other general risk factors are dehydration and being overweight or obese.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms are severe pain at the back and flank, difficulty urinating and passing small only small amounts of urine at a time. The pain is often cramping or like a spasm, and tends to come in waves. Some people might also have nausea, vomiting and may have red or brown urine. Symptoms occur when a stone leaves the kidney and enters the tighter ureter (the tube between the kidney and bladder).

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of kidney stones is often based on the typical symptoms and physical examination. A urine dipstick test may show blood and pus in the urine, and help confirm the suspicion of a kidney stone. An X-ray, ultrasound scan or computer tomography (CT) scan is often done to confirm the position and size of the stone.

Treatment

The treatment varies according to the size of the stone and the severity of the symptoms. Small stones usually pass with no need for medical assistance. Drinking plenty of water may help to flush the stone from the urinary system. Pain medication is often needed while passing a kidney stone. Big stones might need assistance to pass. This can involve lithotripsy (breaking up the stone with shock waves), the surgical removal of stones or the removal of the stone with a scope (small tube with a camera).

Other names for nephrolithiasis

  • Kidney stones
  • Ureterolithiasis
  • Ureteral stone