What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hard stones that can form in the kidney, in the tube (the ureter) draining urine from the kidney, or in the bladder.
Our kidneys remove many different chemicals from our body. This is really important to keep us healthy. These chemicals are passed from our kidneys to our bladder and out of our body. Occasionally these chemicals can join together and form kidney stones.
How common are kidney stones?
Each year 1 or 2 people in every 1,000 will have symptoms caused by kidney stones. About 1 in 8 men and 1 in 16 women will have an episode of pain caused by kidney stones at some time in their lives.
Kidney stones are more common in men. You are more likely to develop kidney stones if you eat a Western diet, don't drink enough fluids or you are overweight.
If you have a kidney stone there is about a 1 in 3 chance of having another stone within the following five years.
Are there any possible complications?
Complications from kidney stones are uncommon. Rarely, a large stone can completely block the urine passing down one of the tubes (ureters) draining urine from the kidney. This may lead to infection or even damage to the kidney.
This is now very uncommon because X-rays or scans will usually detect any blockage so that large stones can be removed before they cause any damage to your kidneys.
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Further reading & references
- Guidelines on Urolithiasis; European Association of Urology (2015)
- CUA guideline on the evaluation and medical management of the kidney stone patient; Canadian Urological Association (November 2016)
- Guidelines for acute management of first presentation of renal/ureteric lithiasis (excluding pregnancy); British Association of Urological Surgeons (February 2012)
- Renal or ureteric colic - acute; NICE CKS, April 2015 (UK access only)
- Macneil F, Bariol S; Urinary stone disease - assessment and management. Aust Fam Physician. 2011 Oct 40(10):772-5.
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