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Ouch! What you Need to Know About Kidney Stones

One in 10 people will develop kidney stones at some point in their lives, and when they do, there’s a good chance they’ll tell you about it. Kidney stones mean pain. Yelp-out-loud pain. Pain that can land you in the hospital.

Luckily, Hoag’s expert urology department is here to help treat patients’ kidney stones through non-invasive and surgical interventions alike. To talk to your doctor about kidney stone care at Hoag, visit

What Do Kidney Stones Feel Like?

If a kidney stone blocks your ureter, it may cause the kidney to swell and the ureter to spasm, which can be very painful. You may feel:

  • Severe, sharp pain in the side and back, below the ribs
  • Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating

How Do Kidney Stones Affect My Pee?

Not well. If the pain doesn’t give it away, changes in your urine might tip you off to a kidney stone issue. You may experience:

  • Pink, red or brown urine
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • A persistent need to urinate, urinating more often than usual or urinating in small amounts

Am I at Risk of Developing Kidney Stones?

Yep. We don’t even know you, and we know you’re at risk. How do we know this? Because kidney stones can affect anyone, of any age (though older men tend to be over-represented in the kidney stone department). Factors that can increase your risk include:

  • Family or personal history
  • Persistent dehydration
  • Diets high in protein, sodium and sugar
  • Obesity
  • Digestive disease and surgery
  • Other urologic issues
  • Certain supplements and medications (particularly Vitamin C and calcium-based antacids)

How Are Kidney Stones Treated?

If they’re small enough, they will pass on their own. Just make sure to drink plenty of water! In some cases, your doctor may give you an alpha blocker, a medication that can help you pass the stone.

For larger stones and those that cause problems such as bleeding, kidney damage or infection, your Hoag urologist can perform one of several procedures, including:

  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), which uses sound waves to break up the stones.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy, a surgery to remove the stone using small telescopes and instruments inserted through a small incision in your back.
  • Ureteroscope surgery, which uses a scope inserted through your ureter to capture or break the stone to pieces.
  • Parathyroid gland surgery, if necessary, which removes overactive glands that cause calcium phosphate buildup.

For more information or to talk to your doctor about your risk of developing kidney stones, visit