Kidney stones are rarely dangerous, but they can be very painful and are an indication something is out of balance in the body. They form when the minerals and salts from urine stick together and form stones. They range in size from as tiny as a grain of sand to as large as a ping-pong ball.

They form in your kidneys and may stay there or move into the urinary tract before traveling out of the body. At some point during this process, they can cause anywhere from mild to unbearable pain.

The most common cause of a kidney stone is not hydrating the body sufficiently. This causes an imbalance in the salt, minerals, and water found in urine. It is also possible to develop kidney stones because of gout.

Some people are prone to kidney stones because of their family history, but it is possible for anyone to develop stones, even with no genetic risk.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

The symptoms associated with kidney stones vary based on the size of the stone. Sometimes there are no symptoms and other times symptoms are very mild. It is possible for a kidney stone to cause sudden, severe pain as it moves from the kidneys into the bladder.

Pain usually occurs in the groin or belly, and urine passed may have a pink or red tinge. Kidney stones can also cause nausea or vomiting. Most people also find they urinate more frequently when trying to pass a stone.

Kidney stones can be large enough to block the passage of urine. This can result in an infection, which can increase the overall pain of having stones. In these situations, your doctor will likely recommend medical procedures to remove the stones.

Surgery may also be necessary in extreme cases. At the very least, medication will be given to help the body pass the stone when problems arise.

When stones are small and not very painful, over-the-counter medication can be used to make the process of passing easier. In some cases, stones are so small they are passed without a patient even realizing there was a problem.

Preventing Kidney Stones

There are several things you can do to reduce the likelihood of kidney stones forming. Preventing kidney stones helps you avoid the pain and discomfort that goes with them. Hydrating your body is the best defense against kidney stones.

Health experts recommend drinking enough water to produce at least 1 liter of urine each day. Most estimate eight glasses should accomplish this. This ensures your urine maintains a healthy balance and that you are flushing your system throughout the day.

A properly hydrated body produces urine that is clear or light yellow.

Those with severe kidney stone problems will want to speak with their doctor about other preventative measures. He or she can prescribe medication or recommend at-home remedies that further reduce the likelihood of stones.

Even if kidney stones are mild, you will want to avoid future problems with large or painful stones by taking a proactive approach to prevention.