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A Quick Guide to Kidney Stones

  • 14 Aug 2023
  • 3 Mins

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals from a person’s urine. There are four types of kidney stones – calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite, and cystine – and they may affect any part of your urinary tract. Urine comprises of liquid with various minerals and salt dissolved in it.

When urine becomes concentrated with too much minerals and not enough liquid, the minerals in urine crystalize and become stuck together. After the kidney stone is formed, it may remain in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract to the ureter, which are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder.

What are some common causes of kidney stones?

There is no single definite cause for kidney stones, although there are factors that can increase your risk of developing them. Some possible causes include not drinking enough water, as kidney stones form when your urine contains more wastes than liquid.

Other causes include eating a high-salt or sugar diet, and obesity. A family history of kidney stones might also be a potential risk factor in some people. Kidney stones come in various sizes and can be as small as a grain of sand, or as large as a pebble. Some kidney stones can grow to be the size of golf balls.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

A kidney stone may not cause any symptoms until it travels from the kidney to the ureter. When a kidney stone becomes stuck in the kidney or ureter, it might block the flow of urine and cause irritation in the kidney or ureter. This blockage may eventually lead to extreme pain.

Some common symptoms of kidney stones are:

  • Severe or sharp pain on either side of your lower back, below the ribs
  • Vague pain or stomach ache that won’t go away
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

How can you reduce your chances of getting kidney stones?

There are lifestyle changes you can make to prevent kidney stones. Drinking sufficient water throughout the day will ensure that your urine will be less concentrated with minerals. If you live in a hot climate or exercise frequently, you should drink more water. If you have a family history of kidney stones, speak to your doctor about the ideal amount of water intake that is best for you.

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables may decrease the acidity of your urine, which will in turn lower the chances of kidney stones forming. A diet low in salt and animal protein is also recommended.

Medication may also be taken to control the amount of minerals and salts in your urine. The type of medication prescribed will depend on the type of kidney stones you have.

What are some treatment options for kidney stones?

If you are suspected of having kidney stones, your doctor will run diagnostic tests and procedures such as blood and urine testing, as well as imaging or ultrasound procedures, to determine if kidney stones are present.

To treat kidney stones, you may be asked to drink large amounts of water a day to dilute your urine and aid in passing them. You may also get medication to help lower the acidity of your urine.However, if the kidney stone is too large to pass naturally and starts to block the flow of urine in your body, surgery may be needed to remove the kidney stones.

Alternatively, your doctor might try using shock-wave lithotripsy, a procedure that uses sound waves to create strong vibrations that help break up kidney stones into smaller pieces so that they can be passed naturally via your urine. Speak to our urology specialists today if you experience symptoms associated with the presence of kidney stones.

Contributed by

Dr. Lee Fang Jann
Urology and Renal Transplant Surgeon
Farrer Park Hospital