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Kidney stones

What are kidney stones?

The kidneys filter waste products from the blood. When these waste products do not dissolve completely, they become concentrated in the urine and form crystals. These crystals may accumulate and form kidney stones (nephrolithiasis).

Some kidney stones may be as small as a grain of sand while others may become larger in size.

Causes of kidney stones

Risk factors for the development of kidney stones include:

  • Family history of kidney stones
  • Diets high in salt, sugar and protein
  • Dehydration (not drinking enough water)
  • Co-existing medical conditions
  • Medications

Symptoms

A kidney stone often causes no symptoms until it moves in the kidney or into other parts of the urinary system.

Sudden onset of side or back pain and blood in the urine may be a sign that a kidney stone is moving and may be blocking the flow of urine from the kidney to the bladder.

Other signs may include nausea, vomiting, fever, urinary frequency or pain with urination.

Testing, diagnosis and treatment

Types of imaging used to evaluate for kidney stones include x-ray, ultrasound and CT scan depending on symptoms. These are painless tests that take pictures of the kidneys and surrounding areas. Often kidney stones do not cause any symptoms and may be found during other routine medical tests.

Treatment will depend on the size of the stone, the location of the stone and the severity of symptoms. Most small stones will pass out of the body in urine on their own with adequate fluid intake and medication.

Surgery may be considered if:

  • The stone is too large to pass on its own
  • The stone is causing a blockage
  • Your child is experiencing symptoms of fever, constant pain or ongoing urinary tract infections

There are several different procedures to treat kidney stones. Your child’s urology team will determine which option is best for your child based on their individual needs.

Preventing kidney stones

After having a kidney stone, there is a high likelihood of developing another stone within the next five years. Additional testing may be done to evaluate the urine and blood to determine ways to prevent kidney stones from forming.

Increased fluid intake, changes in diet and possibly medications may be recommended to help prevent the development of more kidney stones in the future.

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