What is Kidney Stone and How to Diagnose It?

Kidneys are organs that are shaped like a bean. They are a necessary part of the urinary system and act as a filterer of blood and removes water wastes or urine from the body. Apart from the excretion of urine, the kidneys play an important role in maintenance and balance of acid base, regulation of electrolytes and controlling blood pressure. Kidneys also help in re-absorption of amino-acids, water and glucose.

Sometimes many people face the problem of passing urine; one of the main causes of it is ‘kidney stones’ medically known as ‘renal calculus’. It is the formation of crystals in the kidney. Normally, these crystals are excreted from the body without causing any trouble, but if these crystals grow more than 3 millimeters in size they cause ureteral obstruction which leads to pain in the groin, lower abdomen and flank (region in between the hip and ribs). About 80% of kidney stone cases are reported in men.

Kidney Stone

Symptoms of Kidney Stones:

One of the main symptoms of kidney stone is excruciating pain caused when urinating. Some other symptoms of kidney stones are pain experienced below the ribs and back. It is also characterized by pain that starts and stops at irregular intervals between the lower abdomen and groin with varied levels of intensity. The urine that is passed when suffering from the condition may also be different in color; it may be brown, pink or red.

Another symptom that occurs when stones are present in the kidney is foul-smelling or cloudy urine. People suffering from kidney stones also feel nauseous and tend to vomit more often. Also they have a constant urge to pass urine and frequently urinate. If an infection is caused because of the stones then symptoms like chills and fever may also be present.

Diagnosis of Kidney Stones

There are various ways to check if stones are present in the kidney. One of the most common ways is through a physical examination. It is a simple test in which the doctor will check the area where the kidney is situated for tenderness; normally this area is not soft. Here are some other methods by which kidney stones can be diagnosed.

Blood tests like complete blood count test may be suggested initially to check if there are higher levels of uric acid or calcium in your body. These tests will help in checking if an infection is present because of stones. Another common way to diagnose kidney stones is through urinalysis. These tests will aid in finding out if there are small amounts of blood in urine and also detect bacteria and small blood cells that may cause infection.

A more elaborate form of diagnosis is imaging tests. Currently two types of tests are available and are widely used; they are CT (Computerized Tomography) and ultrasound. CT scan is regarded as one of the most reliable ways to diagnose the kidney for stones. This scan helps to see the location and size of the stones which helps in planning the ideal treatment.

Ultrasound is a form of imaging technique that uses sound waves instead of x-ray. This type of test provides an image of the bladder, ureter and kidneys which help to detect kidney stones. Ultrasound can also detect hydronephrosis (inflammation of kidney) and the stone can also be seen often times.

Your physician may ask you to catch the stones passed in urine by a strainer. Then these will be then analyzed by the lab to find out what is causing kidney stones and ways to prevent more from occurring.

Another method for diagnosis is intravenous pyelograms. In this test a dye is injected into the vein of your arm and then x-rays are done at different points of time to see the mechanism of the kidney whilst it removes the dye from the body and how your urine is collected.


People who suffer from kidney stones are advised to drink plenty of water in a day. It is recommended by doctors that you pass at least 2.5 liters of urine in a day. If you reside in place that is humid, dry or if you exercise regularly, you must drink lots of water so that waste is excreted from your body properly. Remember if your urine is clear and light, it means enough water is drunken by you.

If your stones contain higher amounts of calcium oxalate stones, the doctor might recommend you to restrict foods which are high in oxalates. Foods which are rich in oxalates are okra, rhubarb, beets, Swiss chard, spinach, nuts, sweet potatoes, chocolate, soy and tea. Another way of preventing kidney stones is choosing a diet that is low in animal and salt protein.

Forming of calcium oxalate stones does not mean you need to stop eating all types of foods that contain calcium. You can continue having calcium-rich foods, but use calcium supplements with caution. Consult your physician before using calcium supplements, as they may increase the risk of developing kidney stones.