Kidney Stones

Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 12th March 2019


Kidney stones are caused by a build-up of minerals and salts in your kidneys that form into little stones. These stones often pass through your ureters (the tubes between your kidneys and bladder), down into the bladder and are excreted from the body in your urine.

Depending on the size of the stones, symptoms can range from very mild lower back ache and a burning when urinating, right through to severe and unbearable pain and infection of the kidneys.

Recurrent kidney stones and infections as a result of those stones can be a cause of chronic kidney disease, however fortunately the majority of people will pass kidney stones and won’t suffer complications from them. Studies have shown between 47% and 89% of stones will pass naturally, although the time it takes to pass a stone depends on its size, shape and what it is made up of1.

Your risk of kidney stones is increased in the following cases:

  1. If you have a family or personal history of kidney stones. Having a relative with kidney stones more than doubles your chances of also getting kidney stones.
  2. If you don’t drink enough or the climate is hot and you get dehydrated. Keeping your fluid levels up will reduce the chances of salts and minerals concentrating in your renal tract and forming stones.
  3. Eating excessive amounts of certain foods will increase the chances of stones forming. For example peanuts, spinach and animal proteins have high concentrations of certain minerals and salts that cause stones. For more information on the different types of stones and some dietary advice that can help reduce kidney stones, have a look here
  4. Taking certain drugs; such as calcium, vitamin D and diuretics can increase the risks of stone formation.

What does it feel like to have kidney stones?

The symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Low back pain (loins), that sometimes radiates into the groin (referred to as ‘loin to groin pain’)
  • The pain can be cramping in nature, go from mild to severe and back again, in waves
  • Frequent need to pass urine
  • Painful urination that burns or stings
  • Smelly urine or urine that is bloody
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

What do I do if I think I have kidney stones?

Speak to a GP. Your GP will work through a list of possible diagnoses and then advise you on how to manage the pain (with pain killers) and what to do next. You will need to bring a urine sample with you if you are asked to go to a clinic for further examination.

Further information

NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-stones/

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases - https://www.niddk.nih.gov/

Eating, diet and nutrition for kidney stones - https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones/eating-diet-nutrition


References

1. NICE Renal or Ureteric Colic [online] Last updated April 2015. Accessed 8/3/2019. https://cks.nice.org.uk/renal-...