Kidney stones are hard objects that are made up of chemicals from the urine. When there is excessive waste dissolved in the urine, crystals begin to form. These crystals join together with other elements to form a solid mass that gets larger until it is passed through the body with urine. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people will have a kidney stone in their lifetime.

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Did you know?

  • Kidney stones are common in Canada and have been on the rise over the last 25 years. About 12% of men and 6% of women will develop kidney stones in their lifetime.
  • Kidney stones are often diagnosed younger in women than in men. For women, their first kidney stone is often diagnosed between 25 and 30 years of age. For men, the age range of their first kidney stone diagnosis is 40 and 60.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

  • Severe pain on the sides, lower back, or lower abdomen.
  • Persistent stomach ache.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Difficulty passing urine, blood in the urine, or urine that is cloudy.

What causes kidney stones?

The urinary system is made up of the kidneys, the uterus, bladder, and urethra. Each element plays its own role in helping the body to eliminate waste in the form of urine. When excess waste is present, however, kidney stones can start to form from crystals.

The following are risk factors for kidney stones:

  • Family history. You are 2.5x more likely to develop a kidney stone if one or more of your relatives have had a kidney stone. However, there is no clear genetic cause that has been located at this time.
  • Drinking too little water. Under-hydration (or producing less than one litre of urine per day) leads to a higher risk of kidney stones because the urine is more concentrated and increases the likelihood that crystals will form.
  • Dietary factors. Consuming too much protein from animal sources or too much oxalate can make the urine more acidic, which leads to a higher likelihood of kidney stones. Also, eating foods with high salt or sugar content can increase the risk of kidney stones.
  • Environmental factors. Reduced access to washroom facilities, a lack of water, or a hot climate are all factors that can lead to less urine output and therefore increase the risk of developing kidney stones.

Is there more than one type of kidney stone?

There are four main types of kidney stones: calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite, and cystine.

  • Calcium oxalate is the most common kind of kidney stone and is caused by inadequate calcium and fluid intake.
  • Uric acid is another common type of kidney stone. This type is caused by consuming foods such as organ meats and shellfish, which have high concentrations of a chemical compound called purines.
  • Struvite stones are caused by infections in the upper urinary tract, though they are less common than calcium oxalate and uric acid stones.
  • Cystine stones are caused by a rare disorder called cystinuria. With this disorder, cystine leaks into the urine and increases the risk of stones. Cystinuria is a lifelong condition and tends to run in families.


Transforming Urologic care

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