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Blog / Kidney Health

What Are Kidney Stones?

Dec. 02 2019 by Sheherzad Raza Preisler Blog Editor
What Are Kidney Stones?

Our kidneys sit on either side of our spine in the retroperitoneal space, the area known as our mid-lower back. They’re the organs responsible for filtering our blood in order to remove excess waste and water in the form of urine. They’re each about the size of a fist, and are protected by our ribs and layers of muscle and fat. At rest, our kidneys are using about 25% of our cardiac output. 

Kidney stones are substances that could form in your kidneys, often if your urine becomes too concentrated. If this happens, minerals in the urine will crystallize, sticking together and forming “stone”-like deposits. Kidney stones, though, could have a variety of different causes and are able to have an impact on any part of your urinary tract.

While kidney stones generally don’t cause permanent damage–as long as they’re identified quickly enough–passing them can be a markedly painful ordeal. While it varies depending on your situation, it’s likely you’ll be able to pass a kidney stone simply by taking pain medication and hydrating well. Your doctor may, however, recommend preventative treatment(s) to lower your risk of developing kidney stones again if you’re at a high risk of developing them once more.

A kidney stone may be asymptomatic until it moves around in your kidney or into your ureter (the tube that connects the kidney and bladder). Once you reach that point, you could experience the following:

  • Pain while urinating
  • Urinating small amounts
  • Fever and chills (if you have an infection)
  • Urinating more frequently than you normally do
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pink, brown, or red urine
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Pain that radiates to your lower abdominal region and groin
  • Severe pain in your side and back (below your ribs)
  • The pain caused by a kidney stone may evolve as it moves throughout your urinary tract. 

The Mayo Clinic says you should see your doctor if you exhibit any worrisome symptoms, and should seek immediate medical assistance if you experience:

  • Blood in your urine (hematuria)
  • Pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting
  • Pain that’s so severe you’re unable to find a comfortable position or sit still
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain, accompanied by fever and chills

The Ezra abdominal, torso, and full-body scans screen your kidneys for cancerous states and other conditions. If you’d like to learn more, you may do so here.