If you've had a kidney stone once, you're at an increased risk for another one. A urologist is frequently involved in deciding whether you'll need an extensive medical evaluation, including testing the amounts of various minerals in your urine, to assess further risks of stone formation.
If your kidney stone is small, it may pass out of your body on its own within a few days or weeks. Your health care provider will likely ask you to drink lots of water -- 2 to 3 quarts a day -- and prescribe a pain medication.
Kidney stones are created when certain substances in urine -- including calcium, oxalate, and sometimes uric acid -- crystallize. These minerals and salts form crystals, which can then join together and form a kidney stone.
Kidney stones usually form within the kidney, where urine collects before flowing into the ureter, the tube that leads to the bladder. Small kidney stones are able to pass out of the body in the urine -- and may go completely unnoticed by you. But larger stones...
You may be asked to urinate through a strainer so the stone can be recovered and analyzed. Once the stone's composition is known, your health care provider can prescribe medications or suggest dietary changes to help prevent another kidney stone. With calcium oxalate stones, your doctor may prescribe a thiazide diuretic, which prevents recurrences by decreasing the excretion of calcium in the urine.
If complications develop, such as an infection or total blockage of the ureter, the stone must be removed. Depending on its size, type, and location, the stone can be removed in one of several ways. Most commonly, nonsurgical procedures such as ureteroscopy, which uses a thin telescopic instrument inserted into the urinary tract, or lithotripsy, which uses high-energy shock waves to break up stones, can often be used successfully. Less commonly, more invasive procedures such as nephrolithotomy, which uses a thin instrument that is inserted through an incision in the back, may be required. Open surgery involving a larger incision is available if these other techniques are not successful.