Many people who have experienced kidney stone pain say it’s so severe it’s indescribable. The stones, also called renal calculi, are made of mineral or salts from your urine. Not all kidney stones cause pain or kidney stone symptoms, especially the tiny ones. But larger stones do cause pain as they move through the kidney to the ureter and into the bladder. Some people may only have one kidney stone in their lifetime and others may have many. Here’s how to manage kidney stones and when you should see a doctor. Common Causes of Kidney Stones Kidney stones are caused when chemicals in your urine begin to stick together and form a crystal. As more crystals join together, they become a stone. Kidney stones are most often caused by calcium oxalate, but others are formed with struvite, uric acid, or cystine. While many people don’t have a specific reason why they developed kidney stones, they may form in some people who don’t drink enough water or fluids to flush out their kidneys. People who consume foods high in protein, sugar and sodium can also be at risk for kidney stones. Some stones develop as the result of an infection, obesity, digestive diseases, or other medical conditions. Kidney Stone Treatment at Home Most small kidney stones move through the kidney and pass down the ureter to the bladder on their own. You can help these small stones pass by drinking up to three quarts of water a day, if you don’t have a medical condition that requires you to limit your fluid intake. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen may help manage the kidney pain. When to See a Doctor for Kidney Stones Kidney stones may become stuck in the kidney if they are too large to pass on their own. If this happens, you may experience severe kidney pain (called renal colic), nausea and vomiting, and sweating. Renal colic is typically felt in the side and back of your torso, below the ribs but above the hips. You may also experience abdominal pain. Renal colic pain can even extend into the groin. Expect lower abdominal pain if the stone moves into the bladder. Are kidney stones dangerous? Aside from the pain, a blocked stone may interfere with urine drainage or cause a kidney infection, which can result in other serious complications. If this occurs, you may have: Fever Chills Frequent, strong urge to urinate Burning or pain when urinating Blood in your urine Cloudy, foul-smelling urine If you have any symptoms of a blocked stone or infection, see your doctor or go to an emergency department as quickly as possible for assessment and treatment. Who to See for Kidney Stones If you’ve never had kidney stones before, the first doctor you would see is your family doctor, primary care physician, or an emergency department doctor. If you need further treatment, you may be referred to a urologist, a doctor who specializes in treating problems associated with the urinary tract, or a nephrologist, a kidney specialist. If you must see a specialist, check to see if you need a referral for insurance purposes. While kidney stones can be very painful, once they are passed or treated, there’s a good chance you won’t have another one. If you are prone to forming more kidney stones, however, following a prescribed diet and taking certain medications can help reduce that risk.