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Are kidney stones serious?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Kidney stones are not considered life-threatening, although they can cause problems such as urinary tract infections and kidney damage. If kidney stones are left untreated, bacteria can grow behind the blockage and cause an infection. Long-term kidney stones can also cause a build-up of pressure in the kidneys.

If a stone is lodged tightly in your ureter, you could develop high blood pressure or renal injury if it is neglected for months or years. 

It's a hard question to answer. Kidney stones are not as serious as cancer, but in a particular situation they can actually result in a patient's death. The seriousness of kidney stones depends on their location. For instance, someone could have a kidney stone that blocks a urinary tract infection, so bacteria can't get out. If you don't do anything about it, a patient could get fairly sick and even septic or sometimes even pass away. Those patients are considered emergencies and need intervention, but it’s typically not an emergency if a patient has a little stone or stones that are not blocking anything.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.