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Medical History and Physical Exam for Kidney Stones

Exam Overview

Your first diagnosis of kidney stones often occurs when you are in great pain. Your doctor will ask a few questions and examine you before suggesting treatment.

After you pass a stone, your doctor may give you another exam to find out if you are likely to have more stones in the future.

All or some of the following questions may be asked at your initial and follow-up exams.

Lifestyle questions

  • How much fluid do you drink? Do you drink a lot of water? The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water.
  • Do you drink grapefruit juice? Drinking grapefruit juice may increase your risk for kidney stones.
  • How active are you? Do you get a lot of exercise or play sports? Do you have a job where you are active, or where you are sitting? People who are not physically active are more likely to develop kidney stones. If you do exercise and sweat a lot but do not drink fluids to replace the lost fluid, you may also be more likely to develop stones.
  • What types of foods do you eat? A diet that makes you more likely to develop stones includes:
    • Foods high in oxalate, such as dark green vegetables, chocolate, and beans.
    • Eating many foods that contain vitamin C or D, or supplements of these vitamins.
    • Foods that contain a lot of salt (sodium).
    • Foods or drinks that contain little calcium.
    • Foods high in animal protein (such as beef).

Medicine and medical conditions

  • What medicines are you taking? Some medicines make it more likely that you will develop kidney stones.
  • What medical conditions have you had in the past or do you now have? Medical conditions that make it more likely you will develop kidney stones include:

Physical exam

During the physical exam, your doctor will examine your body for other clues that may explain the cause of your symptoms. He or she may:

  • Take your temperature.
  • Check your weight.
  • Press or tap on your abdomen (abdominal palpation) or back, to check for pain or fluid buildup.
  • Examine your groin, to check for enlarged lymph nodes.

Why It Is Done

A complete medical history and physical exam will help your doctor find out if you currently have a kidney stone and if you are likely to have one again.

Results

Your answers to the lifestyle and medical questions will help your doctor find out if you currently have a kidney stone and if you are likely to have one again.

Physical symptoms that indicate that you may have a kidney stone include:

  • Intense pain in the side, abdomen, groin, or genitals.
  • Frequent and painful urination. A urinary tract infection may also be present.

What To Think About

Although your doctor may decide you have kidney stones based on your medical history and physical exam, he or she may also do lab tests such as a urinalysis or urine culture. Your doctor may start treatment before these tests are done or you know the results.

If you have a family history of kidney stones or pass more than one stone, your doctor may do more tests to find out the type of stone.

Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Tushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
Last Revised May 2, 2013

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