Stone Types and Symptoms

Depending on their location, stones are called kidney stones, ureteral stones or bladder stones. Because they all form in the kidneys and then pass through the urinary tract they are often lumped together as kidney stones.

What are stones made of?

There are various chemicals in urine — including calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite, calcium phosphate and cystine. Stones can form when there is too much of one of these chemicals in the system.

Calcium oxalate: The most common kidney stones are made up of calcium, usually in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a naturally occurring substance in food such as chocolate and nuts, but only a small percentage of people get stones due to excess calcium intake.

Uric acid: The second most common type of stone forms when uric acid levels are high. Dehydration, gout and various types of chemotherapy can raise uric acid levels.

Struvite: Chronic urinary tract infections are associated with struvite stones. Various bacteria — including Proteious and E.coli — can raise the pH level of urine and cause stones to form.

Cystine: A hereditary disorder called cystinuria can cause excess urinary cystine.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Pain is the major symptom of kidney stones.

The pain often begins when the stone leaves the kidney and starts to move down the ureter. Pain is first felt in the sides of the lower back, and then radiates to the abdomen, groin and genital region.

Just prior to a stone passing into the bladder, many patients experience frequent urination and other symptoms similar to a urinary tract infection.

Other symptoms associated with stones include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever or chills
  • Decreased urine volume

If left untreated, stones can cause kidney damage.

Diagnosing Kidney Stones

If kidney stones are suspected, the urologists at Virginia Mason may:

  • Conduct a blood analysis to look for excess calcium or uric acid
  • Do a urinalysis to check for infections and crystals
  • Order imaging tests, such as CT scans, abdominal X-rays or ultrasound testing to determine the size and location of stones

Treatment of stones depends on their type, size, location and other contributing health factors.

For more information about kidney stones or to schedule an appointment, call (206) 223-6772.

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