How to Identify the Early Stages of Kidney Stones

June 07,2023 |
Man holding his stomach from kidney pain.

Kidney stones are never fun. They can cause a lot of discomfort and disrupt your daily life. While some people are more susceptible to stones, identifying your triggers or any underlying conditions that increase your risk while learning about the symptoms can help you find an effective treatment early on. Here, we’ll go over a few ways to identify the early stages of kidney stones and the symptoms that may occur.


What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are small, hard deposits that build up inside the kidneys. They’re composed of minerals and salts that accumulate in the urine over time and form stones. There are several different types of kidney stones. Specific minerals characterize each type, and they tend to have unique causes. Learning about each type can help you better understand your condition and reduce your risk of developing future stones.


Calcium Kidney Stones

Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone. They account for roughly 80% of all kidney stone cases. They’re made from calcium oxalate, a substance found in many foods. Risk factors for calcium stones include a diet high in oxalate-rich foods, such as spinach, rhubarb, and nuts, and certain medical conditions that lead to excess calcium in the urine.


Uric Acid Kidney Stones

Uric acid kidney stones are another common type of kidney stone. These form when the urine is too acidic, which causes the uric acid to crystallize into stones. Risk factors for uric acid stones include a diet high in animal protein, such as meat and seafood, and certain medical conditions.


Struvite Kidney Stones

Struvite stones are less common, but they can grow very large and may even cause damage to the urinary tract system. These stones are typically associated with urinary tract infections caused by bacteria that produce urease, an enzyme that promotes the formation of struvite stones. In addition, these stones may be difficult to treat and sometimes require surgical intervention.


Cystine Kidney Stones

Cystine kidney stones are rare and are caused by an inherited cystinuria disorder. This condition causes the kidneys to excrete too much cystine, an amino acid that forms into stones. Cystine stones can be challenging to treat but tend to respond well to medications.


Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Some people will never experience a kidney stone in their entire life, while others may feel like they’re plagued with them year after year. Although it can be hard to determine why this happens, some risk factors increase your likelihood of developing one or more kidney stones. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Family History — if someone in your family has had kidney stones or tends to experience them often, you may be more likely to develop them as well. To be proactive, know your family health history and share it with your doctor.


  • Dehydration — when you’re dehydrated, your urine becomes concentrated, increasing the risk of kidney stone formation. Try to drink enough water so that your urine is a pale, translucent yellowish color.


  • Diet — a diet that’s high in salt, sugar, and animal protein and low in fiber can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. If you’re unsure what specific food is causing kidney stones, talk to your doctor about keeping a food journal or undergoing testing.


  • Medical Conditions — certain medical conditions, such as gout, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic kidney disease, can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Treating these underlying health conditions can help reduce your risk of kidney stones.


  • Medications — some medications, such as diuretics, antacids, and calcium-based supplements, can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Although it’s important to take these if prescribed, communicate with your doctor about any issues to see if you can find an alternative option.


  • Obesity — people who are obese are more likely to develop kidney stones, possibly because of the metabolic changes that occur in the body. Take measures to reach a healthy weight to better support your body’s functions.


  • Gender and Age — men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women, and the risk increases in both genders with age.


  • Geography — the risk of kidney stones may be higher in areas with hot and dry climates, where people may become dehydrated more quickly. If you live somewhere warm or lacking humidity, ensure you’re diligent about your water consumption.


    Early Stages of Kidney Stones

    When kidney stones are small, they may not cause symptoms and are quickly passed out of the body through the urinary tract. However, larger stones can get stuck in the ureters and cause various uncomfortable symptoms. In either situation, symptoms may only occur once the stones have developed. Although the early stages of kidney stones can be challenging to detect, some signs may indicate their presence. These include the following:

    Mild Discomfort

    In the early stages of kidney stones, a person may experience mild discomfort or pain in the back, side, or lower abdomen. This may be intermittent and may come and go. It can also be confused for other conditions or even just cramps.


    Changes in Bathroom Habits

    Kidney stones can cause changes in urine, such as cloudy or foul-smelling urine, or a decrease in urine produced. They may also lead to changes in bathroom habits like urgency or frequency, especially if associated with a UTI.



    Kidney stones can cause small amounts of blood to appear in the urine, also known as hematuria. This may or may not be visible to the naked eye but can usually be detected with a urine test.


    Mild Nausea

    Some people may also experience mild nausea or digestive discomfort in the early stages of kidney stones. Again, this can be difficult to distinguish from other conditions such as colds or illnesses, cramps, or even morning sickness.

    As mentioned, many of these symptoms can also indicate other conditions, and not all people with kidney stones will experience them. If you think you may have kidney stones or are at risk for developing them, talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to perform the necessary tests to diagnose kidney stones and provide you with appropriate treatment options before they grow.


    Symptoms of Kidney Stones

    As stones get bigger, the symptoms may become more noticeable. However, the symptoms that present themselves will vary based on the size and location of the stone, as well as other individual factors. Some people may experience no symptoms, while others may experience severe pain and complications. Some common symptoms of kidney stones in later stages include:

  • Increasing levels of pain or discomfort
  • Hematuria
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Fever
  • Chills


If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention, especially if they are severe or persistent.


How to Prevent Kidney Stones

If you experience recurrent stones, you may want to take a few precautions to help prevent their formation. Some ways to help prevent kidney stones from forming include the following:


Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help prevent kidney stones. When you’re hydrated, urine is diluted, which prevents minerals from crystallizing and forming stones.


Eat a Balanced Diet

A low-sodium diet filled with plenty of fiber can also help prevent kidney stones. Additionally, consuming foods high in citric acid, such as lemons and limes, may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.


Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of kidney stones, so try to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise to help prevent stones from forming. Exercising will also help keep your cardiovascular system healthy, supporting the blood vessels within the kidneys.

Unfortunately, some people may still develop kidney stones despite their best efforts to prevent them. If you experience recurrent stones, prompt medical attention and treatment can help prevent complications and promote recovery. For the management of a range of urologic issues, Byram Healthcare is here to help. We carry a wide selection of high-quality medical supplies that can be discreetly delivered to your door. To learn more, or to speak with a professional regarding questions or ongoing management, contact Byram Healthcare today.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.