The NHS published a list of the 20 most painful health conditions, which featured kidney stones at number 12.
They can develop in one or both kidneys, and most commonly affect people aged between 30 and 60. Around 8-10% of people are affected by kidney stones, with the number increasing in most cases, according to recent studies.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones, known medically as nephrolithiasis, is a condition where crystals that are formed from waste products in the blood collect in the kidneys. Usually these crystals are small enough to be passed out painlessly in the urine.
Sometimes, the crystals can form together to create a hard stone-like lump.
The pain is caused by your body trying to pass these larger lumps and blocking the ureter or urethra, which can cause a sharp, cramping pain in the lower back or abdomen. This can last for minutes or hours and can come and go.
When the pain is severe (a condition known as renal colic), those that experience it may feel the need to go to A&E.
What are the causes of kidney stones?
Kidney stones can sometimes be caused by not drinking enough water. Some kinds of medication can cause kidney stones to develop more frequently.
Other possible causes of kidney stones include:
- Eating a high-protein, low-fibre diet.
- Being inactive, or bed bound.
- Have recently had a kidney or urinary infection.
- You have had a kidney stone before.
How can I avoid getting kidney stones?
Making sure you drink enough water every day is the best way you can avoid developing kidney stones, as it means your waste products don’t become too concentrated, and stay diluted. Drinking more when you are hot or doing exercise is also vitally important.
If kidney stones are caused by too much calcium in your diet, you can cut down on the foods which help with the absorption of calcium. These include beetroot, asparagus, rhubarb, chocolate, berries, almonds, peanuts, cashew nuts, soy products and grains.
How are kidney stones treated?
Most will pass through your system with little or no pain, in cases where the stones are larger, you may need treatment such as ultrasound or laser treatment to break down the stones. In more severe cases surgery may be required. If you are concerned about kidney stones, make an appointment with your consultant urologist.