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Kidney and ureteral stones are very common, but it is difficult to get an accurate figure for the number of sufferers in Europe.

Kidney or ureter stones often pass without any discomfort but this disease can be amongst the most painful experiences known. In the past, this was seen as a “Cinderella disease”, a disease which was reasonably common but with little public visibility. Today, however, more people are likely to form stones because of the changes in the Western diet and lifestyle.

What is a stone?

A stone is a hard, solid mass that can form in the gallbladder, bladder, and kidneys. These types of stones have different causes and are treated in different ways.

Kidney and ureteral stones develop in the kidney and either stay there or move to the ureter (Fig. 1).

Kidney stones form when minerals or acid salts in your urine crystalise. Most stones leave your body while you urinate. However, sometimes stones get stuck in the ureter, block the normal flow of urine, and cause symptoms. Stones can also be too big to leave the kidney. In both cases, you may need treatment to remove the stone.

Fig. 1: The urinary tract.
Fig. 1: The urinary tract.

Facts about kidney stones

  • Stones are common: about 1 – 2 in 10 people will form a stone at some point.
  • You have a 5 to 10% chance of forming a stone during your life.
  • Men form stones more often than women. This difference is now becoming smaller, perhaps due to the changes in lifestyle and diet.
  • You are most likely to form a stone between the age of 30 and 50.
  • Stone patients often form stones more than once in their life.

This information was updated by the EAU Patient Information Group, March 2018.

The content is in line with the EAU Guidelines on Kidney and Ureteral Stones 2017.

This information was first produced in 2012 by the European Association of Urology (EAU).


  • Prof. Dr. Frank van der Aa, Leuven (BE)
  • Dr. Jean-Nicolas Cornu, Paris (FR)
  • Ms. Sharon Holroyd, Leeds (UK)
  • Prof. Dr. José Enrique Robles, Pamplona (ES)
  • Ms. Eva Wallace, Dublin (IRE)
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