Understanding Kidney Stones

Kidney Stones (Renal Calculi) - a build-up of salt or minerals in your blood

What are kidney stones? 

Kidney stones is medically known as nephrolithiasis. Pain from kidney stones affect around 10-20% of men and 3-5% of women and is common between the ages of 30 and 60. Many kidney stones are small and are passed from the body without you noticing. However larger stones can cause severe pain known as renal colic, and block the urinary system when you try to pass them. This can lead to severe pain in the abdomen or groin and potentially a urinary tract infection.

What can cause kidney stones?
Kidney stones are caused by salts or minerals in your blood which form crystals which build up in your kidneys to form a kidney stone. A lot of salt or protein in your diet or not drinking enough water can lead to kidney stones. Certain liver conditions, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, Crohn's disease and cystitis can also make kidney stones more likely, as can taking certain medications and supplements.

Kidney Stone Prevention
Drinking plenty of water can help prevent kidney stones. Drinking cranberry juice is often recommended for preventing urinary tract infections - however it increases the amount of oxalate in your urine, and therefore isn't recommended if you suffer from kidney stones, as it can increase the risk

Often kidney stones are small enough to allow you to pass them in your urine at home. Pain killers may be needed to reduce pain and sickness. If you are unable to pass the kidney stone yourself within 6 weeks, or your symptoms get worse then you may need hospital treatment.

Larger stones can be broken up by x-ray or ultrasound treatment. In rare cases where your kidney stone is very large, it may need to be removed via keyhole surgery.

Antibiotics may be prescribed if you have a urinary tract infection.

Around 50% of people will experience a recurrence of kidney stones within 10 years. Aim to drink enough water daily to make urine clear and reduce dietary risks. If your kidney stones are made up from an excess of uric acid your doctor may prescribe allopurinol, which is also used to prevent gout.