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Kidney Stones - Topic Overview

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Kidney stones are made of salts and minerals in the urine that stick together to form small "pebbles." They can be as small as grains of sand or as large as golf balls. They may stay in your kidneys or travel out of your body through the urinary tract camera.gif. The urinary tract is the system that makes urine and carries it out of your body. It is made up of the kidneys, the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters), the bladder, and the tube that leads from the bladder out of the body (the urethra).

When a stone travels through a ureter camera.gif, it usually causes pain and other symptoms.

Kidney stones form when a change occurs in the normal balance of water, salts, minerals, and other things found in urine. The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water. Try to drink enough water, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water (about 8 to 10 glasses a day). Some people are more likely to get kidney stones because of a medical condition, such as gout.

Kidney stones may also be an inherited disease. If other people in your family have had kidney stones, you may have them too.

Kidney stones often cause no pain while they are in the kidneys. But they can cause sudden, severe pain as they travel from the kidneys to the bladder.

Call a doctor right away if you think you have kidney stones. Watch for severe pain in your side, belly, or groin or for urine that looks pink or red. You may also feel sick to your stomach (nausea) and may vomit.

You may first find out that you have kidney stones when you see your doctor or go to an emergency room with pain in your belly or side. Your doctor will ask you questions about your pain and lifestyle. He or she will examine you and may do imaging tests such as a CT scan or an ultrasound to look at your kidneys and urinary tract.

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