- Vitamin D overdose
- overactive parathyroid glands
- conditions such as cancer, some kidney diseases, or a disease called sarcoidosis
- a family history of kidney stones
- being between 20 and 40 years old
- take certain medicines such as diuretics (water tablets), antacids and thyroid medications
- having only one kidney
- eating a diet high in protein but very low in fibre
- not drinking enough fluids
- getting dehydrated through living or working in a hot place
- having poor mobility (eg confined to bed)
- pain or aching in the back or one or both sides
- spasms of intense pain (anywhere between the bottom of the ribs and the groin)
- bloody, cloudy or smelly urine
- nausea and vomiting
- frequent urge to urinate
- a burning sensation during urination
- fever and chills
- Blood tests: to identify excess amounts of certain chemicals related to the formation of stones
- Urine analysis: patients may be asked to collect urine over 24 hours to see if there is a high concentration of the chemicals that cause stones
- X-rays: calcium stones show up white on the X-ray
- Intravenous pyelography (IVP): an X-ray involving an injection of special dye to show up stones that can't be seen with X-rays alone
- Ultrasound: uses high frequency sound waves to produce an image of the internal organs
Treatment depends on the type and cause of the stone. Most stones can be treated without surgery. Drinking a lot of water (2.5 to 3 litres per day) and staying physically active are often enough to move a stone out of the body.
However, if there is infection or blockage, or a risk of kidney damage, a stone should always be removed. Any infection is treated with antibiotics first. Stones that are too large to pass can be removed in several ways:
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
This is the most common method and does not involve a surgical operation. Instead, shock waves are used to break the stones into crystals small enough to be passed in the urine. The shock waves do not hurt, although some people feel some discomfort afterwards.
Ureteroscopic stone removal
If a stone is lodged in the ureter, a flexible narrow instrument called a cystoscope can be passed up through the urethra and bladder. The stone is "caught" and removed, or shattered into tiny pieces with a shock wave. This procedure usually involves a general anaesthetic.
If ESWL doesn't work or a stone is particularly large, it may be surgically removed under general anaesthetic. The surgeon makes a small cut in the back and uses a telescopic instrument called a nephroscope to pull the stone out or break it up with shock waves.
Kidney stones caused by chemical imbalance resulting from over-activity of the parathyroid glands (in the neck), is often due to a small benign tumour that can be surgically removed.
This information was published by Bupa Group's Health Content Team and has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. To the best of their knowledge the information is current and based on reputable sources of medical evidence, however Bupa (Asia) Limited makes no representation or warranty as to the completeness or accuracy of the Content.
The information on this page, and any information on third party websites referred to on this page, is provided as a guide only. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Bupa (Asia) Limited is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of, or reliance on, the information.
Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. Last updated August 2017.
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