What causes kidney stones?

Kidney stones are tiny hard stones that form in the kidney as a result of a buildup of crystallized material. Kidney stones are often made up of calcium, but they can also contain uric acid or amino acids (proteins). One or more kidney stones can form in one or both kidneys. Kidney stones begin as tiny specks and may gradually increase in size.

What are the risk factors for kidney stones?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Risk factors include:

  • Dehydration, including long-term mild dehydration, which results in the production of smaller amounts of urine that contain a higher concentration of substances that form kidney stones, such as calcium and amino acids

  • Gout (type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints)

  • High-protein diet

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Male gender

  • Obesity

  • Personal or family history of kidney stones or certain kidney defects, such as horseshoe kidney

  • Prolonged exposure to a hot climate or high altitudes. People living in these areas lose more body water and produce smaller amounts of urine that contains a higher concentration of substances that form kidney stones, such as calcium and amino acids.

  • Prolonged inactivity, such as being bedridden

  • Urinary tract infection

Reducing your risk of kidney stones

Not all people who are at risk for kidney stones will develop the condition, and not all people who develop kidney stones have risk factors. You may be able to lower your risk of developing kidney stones by:

  • Avoiding dehydration. This means drinking plenty of water and fluids so that your urine is consistently very light or clear in color. If you exercise vigorously or live at a high altitude or in a hot, dry climate, you will need to consistently drink significantly more fluids than a person who has a moderate exercise level or lives in a more tropical climate or lower altitude.

  • Drinking lemonade made from real lemons, which has qualities that may prevent the formation of kidney stones

  • Eating a well-balanced diet that includes moderate portions of protein

  • Following your treatment plan for such conditions as a urinary tract infection and gout

  • Getting regular exercise

  • Maintaining a healthy weight and losing excess weight

  • Taking medications as prescribed to prevent the formation of certain types of kidney stones


What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are small pieces of hard, crystallized material that form in the kidney. Kidney stones are often made up of calcium, but can also contain uric acid or amino acids (proteins). Kidney stones, also called renal lithiasis, are a common condition.... Read more about kidney stonesintroduction


What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

Small kidney stones or kidney stones that do not move and remain in the kidney may not produce any symptoms. A small kidney stone may pass in the urine out of the body without causing pain or visible blood in the urine.... Read more about kidney stonessymptoms


How are kidney stones treated?

It is common for a person with a small kidney stone to be unaware of the condition. In fact, it may pass out of the body spontaneously without any treatment. Larger kidney stones that move out of the kidney often require treatment.... Read more about kidney stonestreatments

Medical Reviewer: Williams, Robert MD Last Annual Review Date: May 24, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System

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