Ureteral stones are kidney stones in one of the ureters that connect your kidney to your bladder. Symptoms may include pain, nausea and vomiting. Treatments can break up or remove ureteral stones. Changes to your diet and medications can prevent them from forming again.
A ureteral (pronounced “yer-ree-ter-uhl”) stone is an irregularly shaped solid mass or crystal that’s become stuck in one of your ureters (pronounced “yer-it-ters”). Your ureters are two tubes of muscle that carry urine (pee) from your kidneys to your bladder. You have one ureter per kidney.
Ureteral stones can appear in your left ureter or your right ureter. In most adults, your ureters are between 10 inches and 12 inches long. Stones may be near the proximal end (near the point of origin) or the distal end (away from the point of origin) of your ureter. The proximal end of your ureter connects to your renal pelvis. There’s a renal pelvis in the center of each of your kidneys, and it collects pee. The distal end of your ureter connects to your bladder.
Ureteral stones are often tiny. Some are too small to see with the naked eye. They pass through your pee and don’t cause any problems.
If a ureteral stone is large enough, it can block the flow of pee from your kidneys to your bladder. This blockage can cause severe pain. Ureteral stones form when minerals and salts build up in your pee. The minerals form crystals that grow into stones.
Yes, ureteral stones are kidney stones. A ureteral stone is a kidney stone that’s become stuck in one of your ureters.
There are four main types of ureteral stones, including:
Anyone can develop a ureteral stone. However, you’re more likely to get a ureteral stone if you:
Each year in the United States, about 1 in 1,000 adults goes to the hospital for urinary tract stones.
Over your lifetime, you have a 1 in 8 chance of forming a stone.
If you have tiny ureteral stones, they may pass through your urinary system on their own without any symptoms.
However, stones that block your ureters or any of your kidneys’ drainage tubes may cause symptoms that include:
Ureteral stones form when there’s too much of a stone-forming substance in your pee. The substances that make up ureteral stones usually pass through your urinary system without issue. When they don’t, it’s because there isn’t enough pee in your body to dissolve or flush the substances, usually because you’re not drinking enough water. The substances then start to crystalize.
The following substances make up ureteral stones:
Your body is unique, so the amount of time it may take you to pass a ureteral stone may differ from someone else who has a ureteral stone. You also may not be able to pass or pee out the stone.
In many people, a stone smaller than 4 millimeters may pass within one or two weeks.
Once a ureteral stone reaches your bladder, it typically passes within a few days.
A healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. They’ll also order tests to confirm the presence of ureteral stones.
Tests to diagnose ureteral stones include:
Getting rid of ureteral stones depends on the size and location of the stones. It also depends on what substances make up the stones. The size and location of the stone will give your healthcare provider a good idea as to whether or not you can pass it.
If you have larger ureteral stones or a urinary tract blockage, a urologist may recommend the following:
Medications can help people who develop certain types of ureteral stones:
It’s a good idea to drink plenty of fluids. Drinking at least 2 liters to 3 liters of fluid per day can help you pass small ureteral stones.
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help provide relief for mild pain or discomfort. The most common NSAIDs include aspirin (Bayer®), ibuprofen (Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve®). Not everyone can take NSAIDs, so it’s a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before use.
Most people feel better within a few days after treatment. However, you may have side effects that last until your body has passed the last pieces of your ureteral stones.
There are many ways to prevent ureteral stones:
Your healthcare provider may also ask you to pee into a special strainer or filter until you pass your ureteral stones. Then, they’ll collect your stone and analyze it to determine its chemical makeup. Your healthcare provider can then use that information to create a treatment plan that prevents stones from forming again.
With proper diagnosis, the outlook for people with ureteral stones is good. However, there’s a chance that you may develop ureteral stones again.
Many people pass small ureteral stones without treatment. For large ureteral stones, treatments can break up the stone so you can pass it on your own, or a healthcare provider can remove it. Medications can also help remove ureteral stones and prevent them from coming back.
If you get ureteral stones more than once, your healthcare provider can help you determine why. After their analysis, you may be able to make changes to prevent stones from developing again.
Contact a healthcare provider right away if you’re experiencing ureteral stone symptoms. If your pain is unbearable, they can prescribe medication for pain and nausea or vomiting.
If you have a ureteral stone, a healthcare provider can help locate it so you can get proper treatment.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Ureteral stones can be annoying and painful. However, they’re a temporary condition. Your healthcare provider can help prevent your symptoms from getting worse, so it’s a good idea to contact them as soon as you notice ureteral stone symptoms. They can also give you guidelines to help ureteral stones from developing again.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/19/2022.
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