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A kidney stone is simply a mineral deposit that forms in the urinary tract. Kidney stones develop when crystals, which are present in the urine, begin to stick together and gradually build up into a rock-like mass. Initially, kidney stones are quite small in size, but over time, as more and more crystals attach, they can grow quite large.
The crystals that form kidney stones are made from substances normally present in the urine. These substances include calcium, oxalate, phosphate, uric acid and other chemicals. Our kidneys normally excrete these chemicals into the urine. However, when their concentration in the urine is very high, these chemicals don't stay dissolved, and instead, begin to “crystallize out” of the urine. There are other substances in the urine, called “inhibitors”, which help to keep the crystals from sticking together. When the concentration of crystals is too high, or the relative amount of inhibitors is too low, a kidney stone will form. Many factors can contribute to your chance of having a kidney stone, including your family history, diet and fluid intake, where you live, or even your work environment.