Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones or nephrolithiasis is a common condition for individuals living in Arizona due to our dry climate, predisposing us to dehydration. Other metabolic conditions also contribute to a risk for developing kidney stones.

two men discussing kidney stones and symptoms of kidney stones

Causes of Kidney Stones

Some common causes of kidney stones include:

  • Dehydration
  • Renal tubular acidosis
  • High oxalate diet
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Elevated urine excretion of uric acid (sometimes found in those with gout or obesity)
  • Decreased levels of urine citrate and magnesium
  • Sarcoidosis
  • A rare genetic condition leading to excess excretion of amino acids into the urinary tract

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

If you have a kidney stone, you most likely won’t know it until it begins to pass through  the body. Unfortunately, most kidney stones announce their presence when they begin to pass. This leads to significant discomfort that usually results in an emergency room visit.

Occasionally kidney stones are discovered because an individual had an imaging study such as a CT scan or an ultrasound for another reason.

Treatment for Kidney Stones

Although not all kidney stones need to be treated, patients who need surgical intervention can expect options including:

  • Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy
  • Ureteroscopy with laser lithotripsy and/or stone basketing
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy

If a kidney stone is small enough, it can occasionally pass on spontaneously with increased fluid intake and sometimes the use of medication such as an alpha-blocker like Flomax and Uroxatral.

If an individual has recurrent history of kidney stones, a workup to evaluate risk factors is recommended. In most cases, the workup usually includes a 24-hour urine collection, labs to evaluate for gout and hyperparathyroid disease.