What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are the formation of crystalline stones in the urinary tract (which includes the kidneys, ureters, and bladder). These stones can cause pain, infection, and kidney damage. Stone pain is often described as stabbing and patients will sometimes say that it is the worst pain they have ever felt. The pain can start in the upper back (flank) and then migrate to the abdomen and groin. Changing positions does not help relieve stone pain. Stones are diagnosed using x-rays. The most common x-rays used are CT scans but plain x-rays and ultrasound is sometimes also used.

How common is it?

About 10% of people in the United States will experience kidney stones in their lifetime. Men are two to three times more likely than women to have stone problems. It is most common between the ages of 20-50. Caucasians are more likely to experience stones than other ethnicities. Stones are most common in the dry climates (like the Arizona desert) and in the Southeastern United States.

Find out more

You can learn more about stones in the following pages:

The urinary system

How do kidney stones form?

What causes kidney stone pain?

History of kidney stones

Kidney stone myths

Types of kidney stones

Kidney stone gallery

Ask a kidney stone doctor

Videos and illustrations