The kidneys are located on each side of the spine, towards the back of the abdomen. They work by filtering the blood and removing waste, which are then transferred through the ureter and into the bladder, while the clean blood is returned to the body.

Kidney Stones, Their Causes And Symptoms

A kidney stone is a hard crystalline material which generally forms within the kidney and are often referred to as Renal Calculi. They vary in size, sometimes as small as a grain of sand, but other can grow large enough to block the ureter.

Kidney stones are known to form when there is a decrease in the flow of urine or if the urine contains an excess of the substances that can cause stones to form. The most common type of stone contains calcium combined with either oxalate or phosphate but other substances that can cause them are uric acid and the amino acid crystalline.

Some stones go unnoticed but if they are large enough, they can cause a sudden and sharp pain in the lower back, side or abdomen. Pain can often spread to the groin and into the genitals and changes in bodily position don’t alleviate pain. In severe cases, the sufferer will experience nausea or even vomiting and blood is present in the urine. If there is an infection in the urinary tract, chills and fever will also be experienced.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Once kidney stones are suspected, they are generally diagnosed by checking for blood in the urine or blood tests to evaluate kidney function. A normal x-ray can confirm the existence of a kidney stone, while an ultra sound can detect larger stones that are lodged in the ureter. An Intravenous Pyelogram, where a contrast agent is injected into the veins can pinpoint the exact location of the stone. The agent will build up in the affected kidney, particularly if the stone is blocking the ureter, causing the fluid to be excreted slowly.


The treatment of stones vary according to size; a smaller stone may be left to exit the body via the bladder, but larger stones that are too big to be passed naturally can be treated by the following kidney stone treatment.

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)uses sonic shock waves to break up the stone into smaller pieces so they can be passed in urine. Although it is non invasive, treatment can be uncomfortable and a local anaesthetic is normally used.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) inserts a telescopic instrument called a nephroscope through a small incision in the back, before the stone is removed or broken up with a laser.

Ureteroscopy is used if the stone is stuck in the ureter. A ureterscope is passed through the urethra and into the bladder and remove the stone or break it up using ESWL. As with PCNL, a general anaesthetic is used.

Prevention Of Future Stones

Unfortunately, people who have suffered kidney stones are likely to experience them again in the future, but by making a few lifestyle changes, the effects can be less severe. Drinking plenty of water, around 1.5 to 2 litres a day will help flush out the substances that cause kidney stones but, depending on the cause of the stone, a change in diet or medication may be recommended by a doctor.


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