Also known as nephrolithiasis, kidney stones are hard masses that sometimes form in one or both kidneys. These stones can range from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a golf ball. Most stones are released from the body in the stream of urine, but if they get large enough, the crystalline shape can cause a lot of pain as it tries to pass through the ureters and urethra. Stones form when the minerals and salts that are normally part of the urine are out of balance.
Symptoms may include sharp recurring pain in the kidney area - lower back to abdominal pain, a burning sensation during urination, pain in the genital region and sudden onset of excruciating pain in the area of the buttocks. Some people may also experience a pain or ache in the back on one or both sides, spasms of intense pain between the ribs and the groin. Kidney stones may also cause nausea and vomiting, a frequent urge to urinate, fever, chills and urine that may be cloudy, strong smelling or bloody.
Kidney stones have different causes depending on the type of stone that has formed. A calcium stone forms from an imbalance of calcium in the diet. A struvite stone may happen after a urinary tract infection. These stones are made of magnesium and ammonia. A stone made of uric acid is due to acidic urine. Cystine stones are the rarest form. Cystine is one of the amino acids that make up muscles and other body tissues. This form of stone is hereditary.
Symptoms of kidney stones may also indicate a urinary tract infection. Severe cases may require surgery. You should consult your doctor if you have symptoms.