More than 15 percent of men and nearly 10 percent of women will have a symptomatic kidney stone at some point during their lifetime.

Know your risk

Most kidney stones contain calcium, usually in the form of calcium oxalate. After having passed a first kidney stone, the chance of having another is about 35 to 40 percent after five years and about 50 percent after 10 years.

Kidney stones are also commonly detected in people who have never passed a kidney stone, when imaging studies such as an ultrasound or CT scan are done for other reasons. As many as one-third to one-half of these kidney stones will eventually cause symptoms over a 3 to 5 year period.

"Kidney stones are now known to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, primarily in women, obesity, high blood pressure and 'metabolic syndrome.'”

Common risk factors for developing kidney stones are low fluid intake, high dietary sodium or protein intake, gout, obesity and diabetes. Kidney stones are more common in the southeastern part of the U.S. compared to other regions. Some patients with certain types of bariatric surgery done for obesity are also at increased risk for kidney stones.

Cause for concern

Pain is the most common symptom of kidney stones and can range from a mild ache in the back and abdomen, often radiating into the groin area, to excruciating pain with nausea and vomiting. There is often also blood in the urine.

Kidney stones are now known to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, primarily in women, obesity, high blood pressure and “metabolic syndrome.” They are also linked to developing decreased kidney function (chronic kidney disease) and even severe kidney failure, requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation.

The risk of serious kidney disease seems to be stronger in women and whites compared to men and African-Americans. Kidney stones may also result from other diseases or conditions, and may be the first sign of an inherited or genetic abnormality. Urinary tract infections are also more common in people with kidney stones.