Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Nephrolithiasis?
This is medical terminology, along with renal calculi, that is used to mean kidney stones. The formation of kidney stones in people is fairly high. It can be as high as ten people out of every one hundred people. Because of the overt symptoms of having a kidney stone it is almost impossible to miss this medical condition. The precise meaning of this medical condition in terms of long term health could quite possibly be dependent on just what type of kidney stones developed. Kidney stones are rock size pieces that can be very small or grow to the size of a small pebble. There are even some that are larger. You may have just one or more than one kidney stone at a time. Many times a person will pass them without even knowing that they had one. All though they can be found in anyone regardless of age, gender, or race, they are most often found in men from twenty to sixty years of age.
Pain in the middle of your back that moves across to either side is one of the most common signs of having a kidney stone. The pain then may travel down toward your groin area, which is the area between your legs, and then may go up and down. It can be very severe. Other symptoms that you may also have include:
- Significant pain just below your ribs that can also be in your pelvis, or stomach.
- Having difficulty urinating
- If the kidney stone has caused an infection you may have fever and chills, even flu like symptoms. These symptoms are common if you have a struvite kidney stone.
- You may feel nauseous and even throw up.
- You may have problems with urination such as feeling the need to go very often, even burning when you urinate. You may also see blood in your urine that can look bright red, pink, or even brown.
- You may feel tenderness in your stomach, lower back, or side.
With nephrolithiasis there are different types of stones along with the different causes as to why they form and where, which can include:
- Struvite stones – this are the ones that will typically form around any infectious matter in your kidneys.
- Calcite stones – these are the kidney stones that can develop due to your excessive levels of calcium oxalate. This is a chemical compound that are small aggregations of minerals that appear anywhere in your urinary tract. They are also called calcium stones.
- Uric acid stones – these are the stones found in people who have a high level of uric acid, which is products of purine metabolism. It is also referred to as the unwanted wastes inside your body that has to be eliminated through your urine, or even your stool. These stones are usually found in your urinary bladder, kidneys, or even become stuck in your ureter, which are the thin tubes that carry your urine to the urinary bladder to be stored until excreted.
- Cystine stones – these are composed of primarily certain amino acids.
There are other causes for a person to develop kidney stones which can include:
- Not drinking enough water every day
- Having urinary tract infections often
- Eating a certain diet such as a diet that is high in salt and meat, or a diet that is high in oxalate, which is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, green leafy vegetables, and nuts.
- Take certain medications like steroids, antacids, and diuretics
- History of kidney stones
- Being born with a bowel or kidney disorder or other medical problems like gout.
When you see your physician they will do a medical exam and take your medical history and ask what symptoms you are having. If they suspect you have a kidney stone they may send you to an urologist who is trained in this field. There are many different tests that can be done to let them know what type of kidney stone you have, the size of the stone, and where it is located in your urinary system. Some of the tests that may be done can include:
- Blood tests – this is done to see how your body is working
- Cystoscopy – with this test the urologist will be able to look for any problems in your bladder.
- IVP – this is an intravenous pyelogram and is an x-ray of your bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Over a short period of time you may need to have more than one x-ray taken. Dye is put into your IV to help make these particular organs show up better.
- KUB x-ray – this x-ray also takes pictures of your kidneys, bladder, and ureters. These pictures are used to see if there are any problems with your abdomen or intestines too.
- Non-contrast helical CT scan – this is also referred to as a “CAT” scan. This special x-ray machine will take a picture of your kidneys to see if there are any kidney stones or some other problem.
- Abdominal ultrasound – this test would be used if the physician needed to see the organs and tissues of your abdomen.
If the symptoms that you are feeling become becomes so bad that it is intolerable or you start to run a high fever you should seek immediate medical help. You should also make sure that you are drinking two to three quarts, which are equal to eight to twelve cups of liquids daily, preferably water which can help a kidney stone to pass on its own when you urinate. Many times when you go to your physician for a kidney stone they will have you urinate in a special strainer or cup so if you do pass the kidney stone it can be sent to the lab so they can analyze what type of kidney stones you have. Knowing what type of kidney stones you have will also enable you to get the right treatment for the type of stones you have. They may want to take x-rays every couple of weeks until they know the kidney stone has been passed.
If it does not pass on its own, or you start to have too much discomfort, you may need surgery to have it removed but what type depends on where it is located and the size. To prevent further kidney stones you may need to change your diet and/or take medication. You do need to make sure that you are drinking enough water every day.