How Doctors Diagnose Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are the aggregations or deposits of minerals and salt that the kidney produces. Kidney stone occurs from a high phosphorus, oxalate, and calcium concentration. Drink enough fluid, preferably a good amount of water (3 liters recommended). If not, you can be at a higher risk of highly concentrated urine. There are many other factors involved in kidney stone formation.

Kidney Stone Types

  • Calcium-based stones

  • Struvite stones

  • Uric acid stones

  • Cystine stones

Kidney Stone Risk Factors

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Family history

  • Race

  • Specific medications

  • Underlying health conditions

  • Anatomic conditions

Kidney Stone Symptoms

Most people having kidney stones do not feel the pain. However, we will list the most common and likely symptoms below.

  • Flank pain - Feeling discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen, back, and sides

  • Hematuria - witness blood in the urine

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Urinating urgency

  • Higher frequency of Urination

  • Feeling pain or painful urinating

  • Fever

Know if you Have Kidney Stones

A few data can throw some light.

  • 1% of Americans have kidney stones

  • Men have a higher chance of kidney stones than women, but the gap has narrowed.

  • Over half of the diagnosed will have over one kidney stone.

  • Typically, ages between 20 and 50 are likely to have kidney stones, but now even the more aged or even kids are getting it.

Typically kidney stones, when in the kidney, do not cause pain, but if they obstruct can cause pain. If the kidney stone passes to the ureter and gets stuck, it can cause pain. Sometimes the kidney stones in the kidney can move to the top of the ureter and blocks the passage. As the kidney stone moves, patients feel the pain coming and going.

It is rare, but sometimes kidney stones cause pain even are sitting inside the kidney, even if not obstructed. The kidney stone width can vary from 2 to 5 mm, and the ureter width is 3-4 mm. As the kidney stones grow larger can put pressure on the ureter lining and cause pain. It can create spasms in the ureter.

First Line of Treatment for Kidney Stone

The first line of treatment includes NSAIDs to manage your pain, such as Toradol, iBrufen, naproxen, etc. You can also take anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medications, such as tamsulosin or Flomax. You can apply a warm compress which may help.

Diagnosis of Kidney Stone

Once you pass the stones through medications, collect them in a strainer which you can get from a pharmaceutical supply store. The reason is doctors can analyze what kind of kidney stones you have.

To pass stones, drink a lot of fluid or water, at least 3 liters of water.

If you cannot pass the stone, you must visit a doctor immediately.

  • Physicians take your medical history, followed by a physical checkup.

  • Doctors take urine samples for further analysis of urine

  • X-ray of the abdomen

  • Finally, a CT scan or an ultrasound for follow-up imaging to confirm

American Urological Association's recommended gold standard diagnosis is a non-contrast CT of the pelvis or abdomen.

Once the health specialist detects the stone and can see the size and location are the essential determinants for the treatment and management of the kidney stones.

Importance of Diagnosis

Sometimes the kidney stone pain goes away, and if not seen the stone, it can still be at the ureter, and that can cause problems down the line.

Recurrence of Kidney Stones

If you diagnose one stone, visit a urologist to prevent more stones. It may occur within five years if doctors do not work to prevent the recurrence.

Stone Prevention Workup

Blood Test

It is to identify the causes of kidney stones. It may reveal that too much calcium deposition or uric acid causes them in your blood. Blood tests help monitor the overall health of your kidneys and may prompt doctors to check other underlying or associated health conditions before treating them.

24-hour Urine Sample Test

The test comprising a 24-urine collection helps show whether you are excreting too many stone-forming minerals or too-few stone-preventing substances. This test may call for two urine sample collections over two consecutive days.

Follow-up Imaging

It is mandatory to know the status of the kidney stone, including its formation, type, and location. The test may reveal stones in the kidney or the urinary tract. High-speed dual-energy Ct scan (computerized tomography) may help understand the stone's condition, like a tiny stone. Doctors use simple abdominal X-Rays less frequently because these tests may miss small kidney stones.

Ultrasound non-invasive test is quick and easy to implement. It is another effective diagnosis that helps to detect kidney stones.

Stone Analysis

You can pass the stones. Doctors may ask you to urinate into a strainer to net the stones you pass. They sent the kidney stones for lab analysis that will disclose the makeup of the kidney stones. This analysis will help the doctor identify the causes of kidney stone formation and the course of action to prevent kidney stones in the present and the future by addressing the root cause.


Drink enough water daily, 3 liters or more, to prevent or pass kidney stones. Consult a doctor for the pain or the symptoms, as mentioned. If the condition does not improve through medication, doctors may recommend invasive treatments like minor surgeries to remove kidney stones. But go step by step. First, know what you need to do if you have kidney stones. Know the causes through tests and diagnosis. Know the type of surgeries.

Updated on: 20-Apr-2023


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