What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are small, solid masses that form when salts or minerals normally
found in urine become solid crystals (crystallise) inside the kidney.
In most cases, the crystals are too tiny to be noticed, and pass harmlessly out of
However, they can build up inside your kidney and form much larger stones.
If a stone becomes large enough, it may begin to move out of your kidney
and progress through the ureters - the tubes that carry urine from the kidney
to your bladder.
If it gets stuck in the ureter, this can cause an infection which can lead
to permanent kidney damage.
Depending on where they are located, kidney stones are also known as
renal calculi, urinary calculi, urinary tract stone disease, nephrolithiasis,
urolithiasis and ureterolithiasis
What causes kidney stones to form?
Normally, urine contains chemicals which prevent crystals from forming.
However, some people seem to be more prone to kidney stones than others.
If you are prone to kidney stones, there are several factors which
contribute to their formation:
• Consuming too much calcium oxalate or food high in uric acid in your diet
• Drinking too little fluid
• Blockage of the urinary tract
• Certain metabolic diseases
• Recurrent urinary tract infections
• Consuming too much Vitamin C or D
• Bed rest for several weeks or more
• Certain medications
Sometimes, no causes can be found.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
Many kidney stones don't move and are too small to cause any symptoms.
However, if a kidney stone causes a blockage, or moves into the ureter,
it may cause some of the following symptoms:
• severe pain or aching in the back on one or both sides
• sudden spasms of excruciating pain (renal or uteric colic) - this usually
starts in the back below the ribs, before radiating around the abdomen,
and sometimes to the groin and genitalia
• bloody, cloudy or smelly urine
• Nausea and vomiting
• a frequent urge to urinate, or a burning sensation during urination
• fever and chills
These can also be symptoms of a urinary tract infection, or cystitis,
which is much more common than kidney stones in young women.
If you have one or more of these symptoms you should seek medical advice.
How are kidney stones diagnosed?
Doctors can usually diagnose kidney stones by asking about your symptoms
and examining you.
Further tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis and to reveal the size,
location and type of stone. These include:
• blood tests - to identify excess amounts of certain chemicals related to the
formation of stones
• urine analysis - to look for signs of infection
• taking an X-ray image - stones that contain calcium usually show up white
on Xray images
• an intravenous urogram (IVU) - this involves an injection of a special dye
that shows up the whole urinary system on X-ray images, revealing stones that
can't usually be seen
• ultrasound scan - this uses high frequency sound waves to produce an
image of the internal organs
non-contrast helical computerised tomography - this produces pictures from
a series of Xray images taken at different angles - it is sometimes used to
diagnose kidney stones, and is thought to be the most accurate diagnostic test
How are kidney stones treated?
Treatment depends on the type and cause of the stone. Most stones can be
treated without surgery.
Drinking lots of water (two and a half to three litres per day) and staying
physically active are often enough to move stones smaller than about five
millimeters out of your body. You may be prescribed paracetamol or codeine
to reduce the pain.
• Extra corporal Shock wave Lithotripsy Here a machine is used to send
shock waves to the kidney stones which breaks them. These are the passed
through the urines
• Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy of Tunnel Surgery involves cutting a small
slit into the back and making a narrow tunnel through the skin to the stone
inside the kidney with a special instrument that goes through the tunnel the stone
is found and removed
• Utheroscope is a special tube with a camera at the end used to insert into the
urethra, andup through the bladder, into the urethra where the stone is located and
a cage is used to catch the stone and pull it out..It ccan also directly destroyed
with a device inserted through the ureteroscope.
• However, if there is an infection, a blockage, or a risk of kidney damage, you will
receive treatment to remove your stone. Infections can be treated with antibiotics.
Stones that are stuck can be removed in several ways:
How can you help prevent the formation of kidney stones?
There are steps you can take, in consultation with your doctor and dietitian, to help
prevent kidney stones.
• Drink at least two liters of water during the day and a glass of water whenever
you get up at night to pass urine. Be sure to drink plenty after meals and after
• If you have calcium oxalate stones, be sure to stay within the recommended
dietary allowance for calcium and avoid foods high in oxalate content (such as tea
or chocolate). Do not take very large doses of Vitamin C (4 grams or more daily)
and avoid heavy use of antacids. Vitamin B6 (not exceeding 50 mg/day) may
protect against recurrent calcium oxalate stones.
• Decrease protein and salt intake.
• If you have uric acid stones, cut down on the amount of meat, fish and poultry
. You should discuss dietary changes with your doctor as they are not appropriate
Even if you get slight symptoms always consult Doctor without delay or hesitation.