Kidney stones can range from the size of a grain of sand to a few millimetres or even centimetres. Most are small and can be passed out in the urine without you noticing. However, larger ones can be painful when they pass or they can become stuck and cause complications.
Kidney stones can develop in either kidney and may pass through your urinary tract – your ureter (the tube from your kidney to your bladder), bladder and urethra (the tube from your bladder to outside your body).
Kidney stones commonly affect people aged 30 to 60, with men more likely to develop them at some stage in their life.
Larger stones can be treated with ultrasound or laser treatment, or keyhole surgery if they’re very large.
If your kidney stones are causing you pain it may be because:
If this happens it can cause lower back and groin pain with spasms of severe pain on one side of your abdomen or groin.
Other kidney stones symptoms include:
Your doctor may be able to diagnose kidney stones from your symptoms and medical history. Further tests include:
Kidney stones are small crystals made from certain chemicals that are dissolved in urine. These chemicals are:
You’re more likely to develop kidney stones, and suffer from recurrent kidney stones, if you:
Certain diseases, having bypass surgery on your digestive system, and certain medications can also make you more likely to develop kidney stones.
Many kidney stones don’t need treatment. You should drink more fluids and take over-the-counter painkillers to help pass small kidney stones.
Kidney stones that have become stuck and cause persistent problems can be treated by:
Some kidney stones (stones made of uric acid) can be dissolved more easily than other types, so drinking around three litres of water each day can treat them.
You can help avoid kidney stones by drinking more water to avoid dehydration and making dietary changes. If you’ve had kidney stones, your doctor can advise you about the best diet for you based on the type of kidney stones you had to prevent them from returning.