Identifying Kidney Stones

Identifying Kidney Stones

There are several types of kidney stones. Your kidney stone’s size and shape determine whether it is likely to pass by itself. Knowing a stone’s composition helps your doctor find its cause. Then he or she can suggest the best treatment.


A stone may be as small as a grain of sand. Or it may be as large as a golf ball. Small stones may pass out of the body when you urinate.


Small smooth, round stones may pass easily. Jagged-edged stones often lodge inside the kidney or ureter. Staghorn stones can fill the entire kidney.


Most stones are calcium oxalate, a hard compound. Stones made of cystine or uric acid, or caused by infection, are less dense. Stones often contain more than one chemical.

Your kidneys filter your blood and release chemicals into the urine. If certain chemicals build up in the kidneys, they can form a stone.

Treating Your Stones

You and your doctor will work together to form a treatment plan. Your doctor may suggest that you let your stone pass naturally. Or you may manage it with medications. SWL (shock wave lithotripsy), ureteroscopy (using a camera inside the body to remove the stone), or other procedures may also help. And you will be told how you can help prevent kidney stones in the future.