Illustration of the Urinary System | Cleveland Clinic

What are ureteral stones?

Ureteral stones are kidney stones that have become stuck in one or both ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder).

If the stone is large enough, it can block the flow of urine from the kidney to the bladder. This blockage can cause severe pain. Kidney stones are formed from excess concentrations of minerals and salts in the urine. These minerals form crystals that grow into stones. Most kidney stones are calcium-based.

Many kidney stones are tiny. Some are too small to see with the naked eye, pass through the urine, and do not cause a problem. Larger stones that get stuck in the urinary tract can cause pain that may be severe.

How common are ureteral stones?

Each year in the United States, about 1 in 1,000 adults is hospitalized for urinary tract stones. They are most common among middle-aged adults. Over your lifetime you have a 1 in 8 chance of forming a stone.

What are symptoms of ureteral stones?

Tiny stones that pass through the urinary system on their own may not cause any symptoms. However, stones that block the ureter or any of the kidney’s drainage tubes may cause symptoms that include:

  • Severe, intermittent (comes and goes) pain in the upper flank (in the back, under the lower ribs) that can radiate (spread) to the lower abdomen, and;
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Call your doctor right away if you have these symptoms.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/18/2017.

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