4 Types of Kidney Stones and How They're Treated

Kidney stones are hard clusters of minerals that accumulate in your kidneys over time. Kidney stones are not a normal occurrence and can cause a lot of pain. Passing a large kidney stone through urination may be excruciating.

Alex Lesani, MD, an expert urologist in Las Vegas, recommends lifestyle changes to prevent kidney stones or to stop them from recurring. Catching and treating kidney stones early helps you avoid unnecessary pain and possibly serious complications. 

All kidney stones begin as minerals normally present in your urine and are regularly excreted when you urinate. However, if you don’t drink enough water or consume too many minerals, your body can’t excrete the minerals completely. Instead, they clump together in your kidneys, creating hard and sharp stones that vary in size from minuscule to as large as a golf ball.

Here’s what you need to know about each of the four main types of kidney stones and how they’re treated. You can, of course, develop more than one type of stone, either simultaneously or over the course of your life.

1. Calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate stones

Calcium stones — the most common type of kidney stones — are created by an accumulation of calcium, oxalate, phosphate, and other minerals. Calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate stones are sometimes referred to as calcium stones, which may lead you to believe that they’re composed of calcium alone and that you should cut down on eating that mineral. 

However, calcium oxalate and phosphate stones aren’t caused by consuming too much calcium. In fact, not eating enough calcium puts you at risk for these stones because dietary calcium binds with dietary oxalates and phosphate in the gastrointestinal tract, so they can more easily leave the body. 

Calcium phosphate stones are usually caused by an underlying condition, such as hyperparathyroidism or renal tubular acidosis. They may also be a result of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

You may develop calcium oxalate stones if you don’t drink enough water and consume too much:

Oxalates are chemicals found in dark leafy green vegetables, such as kale or spinach, as well as other healthy foods, including beets and nuts. Cooking, fermenting, or sprouting these foods helps reduce the amount of oxalates they contain. You should also eat foods with calcium and oxalate at the same time, to encourage binding in the stomach and intestines.

You can treat calcium oxalate stones by taking a vitamin C supplement, which helps dissolve them. You should also avoid taking calcium supplements, as these could lead you to form more stones. 

2. Uric Acid Stones

Uric acid stones occur when your body produces more uric acid than it can excrete. Your body makes uric acid when it breaks down purines, a substance that’s found in many foods, particularly rich foods such as red meat and alcohol. Uric acid crystals can also accumulate in your joints, causing a type of arthritis called gout.

If you have uric acid stones, Dr. Lesani first recommends drinking more water. He also advises you to cut out or minimize foods that are high in purines, such as:

Following a gout-friendly diet can help you avoid uric acid stones. 

3. Struvite Stones

If you have a UTI, you may develop struvite stones. Bacteria in a UTI excrete urease, which hardens into these painful stones.

Only about 10-15% of kidney stones are struvite stones. Struvite stones are composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate. Dr. Lesani may prescribe urease inhibitors to dissolve struvite stones. Acetohydroxamic acid (AHA) can also reduce the pH of your urine and lower ammonia levels to help dissolve struvite stones. 

4. Cystine Stones

Cystine stones tend to be bigger than other types of kidney stones. They’re also rarer.

You may develop cystine stones if you have a medical condition called cystinuria, which causes cystine to leak into your urine. Cystine is an amino acid that’s present in your hair, skin, connective tissues, and digestive enzymes. However, if you have cystinuria, you can’t process cystine, and it leaks into your urine, forming stones.

While dietary changes and drinking more water can prevent most kidney stones, if you currently have a stone, you may need medications or therapies to break up or dissolve the stone so you can pass it and get relief. Dr. Lesani may recommend:

If you think you have kidney stones, call our helpful Las Vegas, Nevada office staff at 702-470-2579 to set up an evaluation. You can also book online.

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