Learn about ways to prevent kidney stones, common causes and what to do when experiencing symptoms.

Kidney stones are made of minerals and salts that stick together and form crystals in your urine. The stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a marble. Some are smooth, but most are jagged. The stones can stay in your kidney or move out of your body when you urinate. Most stones pass out of the body without any need to see a doctor.

The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water. This makes your urine more concentrated. Minerals and salts can then stick together, forming stones.

Some people do not have any pain while other people have a lot of pain. The pain is caused by the size of the stone, the stone moving between the kidney and the bladder, or the stone getting stuck somewhere between the kidney and the bladder.

Go to the nearest Emergency Department if you experience:

  • Severe pain in your back or side that will not go away, even with pain medication.
  • Cannot drink water or swallow your medications because you feel so sick.
  • Have chills and a fever over 38.5 C (101.3 F).
  • Notice your urine smelling bad, or looking cloudy.
  • Feel stinging, burning or pain when you go to the toilet.
  • Cannot empty your bladder.

How to take care of yourself at home

  • Take regular pain medications as directed by the doctor.
  • Make an appointment to see your family doctor in two days. We may ask that you go see a kidney specialist as well. If the stone is too big to move out on its own, or if it gets stuck on the way out, you may need more treatment.
  • Drink eight to 10 glasses of water each day. A good way to do this is to drink one glass of water every hour while you are awake.

Ways to prevent kidney stones

  • Drink six to eight glasses of water each day.
  • Keep active.

Kidney stones are more common if you are not active or sit much of the day.

With some types of stones:

  • You might be asked to not eat certain foods.
  • You might need to take certain medications to help prevent stones from forming.