Kidney stones are hard masses of crystallized minerals that form in the kidney after separating from the urine in the urinary tract. Kidney stones are known to be one of the most common, and most painful, disorders of the urinary tract. Kidney stones are most common among Caucasians and affect approximately 12 percent of men and five percent of women by the age of 70. Most people suffering from kidney stones experience them between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. Kidney stones are more common in hot climates, with peak kidney stone incidence rates occurring one to two months after the hottest months of the year. Recurrence rates are approximately 50% within 5 years of an initial kidney stone episode.

Emory’s team combines experts in the field of kidney stones and stone disease with the latest kidney stone treatment technologies to provide optimal care to our patients.

Causes of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones form when the delicate balance of electrolytes in the urine is disrupted. The leading cause of kidney stone formation is dehydration, which causes the electrolytes and salt in the urine to form crystals, which eventually grow into kidney stones.

Stones form in the kidney and may travel along the course of the urinary tract down to the urethra. When kidney stones get lodged in the ureter, they block the flow of urine from the kidney. This can produce severe flank pain. Other symptoms of kidney stones include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and blood in the urine. If left untreated, stones can cause damage to the kidneys, which, when combined with an infection, can be deadly.

Diagnosing Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are diagnosed by an evaluation of your medical history and a physical exam by your doctor, along with blood tests to measure kidney function and scan for infection. Urine tests to help identify the type of stone, and imaging (x-ray, CT scan, or intravenous pyelography) to determine where the stone is in your urinary tract may also be necessary.