Symptoms and causes

What is it?

A ureter stone always forms in the kidney: it is originally a kidney stone, which at some point comes loose before it 'falls' into the ureter. This stone can get stuck there and block the urinary tract.

Ureter stones are divided into two major categories: stones that contain calcium (lime) and stones that do not contain calcium. The majority of kidney stones contain calcium along with another mineral, such as phosphate or carbonate. Stones that do not contain calcium (e.g. uric acid stones, infection stones or cystine stones) have their own origin: in that case, there is a link with gout (uric acid stones), lingering urinary inflammation or a certain genetic abnormality (cystinuria). These stones, which do not contain calcium, have also their own therapy: some of these stones can be dissolved with medication and these show little or no signs under radiographic radiation, which sometimes complicates diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms

When the flow of urine is blocked, (part of) the kidney expands and tension is created on the kidney capsule. This causes severe pain, known as renal colic. This pain occurs suddenly and the patient cannot find a comfortable position; this is called the urge to move. The pain is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. If the stone shifts a little, the urine can flow again and the pain goes away.

Risk factors

  • If you have had kidney stones at an early age, you have a greater risk of developing kidney stones again later on.
  • If many people in your family have kidney stones, you are more likely to get kidney stones yourself.
  • Certain medications increase the risk of ureter stones, such as calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Diagnosis and treatment

Preventive measures

All types of kidney stone patients should (very generally speaking) follow the preventive measures shown below:

- Drink two to three litres a day. Most liquids are suitable for drinking, except grapefruit juice and water with added minerals.
- Eat a varied diet with lots of vegetables, fruit and fibre. Normal dairy intake is not a problem. Salt intake must be restricted. Be reasonable with your meat consumption.

How is the diagnosis determined?

  • Ultrasound imaging
  • Radiography of the abdomen
  • CT scan of the abdomen
  • Intravenous urography

Treatment

  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
  • Ureterorenoscopies (URS)
  • Laparoscopic removal of the ureter stone

Treatment centres and specialisations

Urology Centre

Latest publication date: 25/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Ameye Filip