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Kidney Stones

  • What are Kidney Stones?

    Kidney stones are urinary disorders that occur when salt or chemicals in the urine form crystals. These crystals block the flow of urine and can lead to serious complications including infection, kidney damage or even kidney failure. Kidney stones are made of various types of chemicals including calcium, phosphate and oxalate.

    This urinary disorder affects more men than women between the ages of 20 and 40. Different types of kidney stones are made of different chemicals, and these include:

    • Calcium oxalate stones or calcium phosphate stones
    • Cystine stones
    • Struvite stones
    • Uric acid stones
  • A kidney stone occurs when:

    • The urine has little or none of the substances that usually prevent these minerals from becoming crystals.
    • The urine contains more minerals (calcium, oxalate, phosphate, uric acid or cystine) than it can dilute.
    • There is the presence of other conditions like cystic kidney diseases, urinary tract infections, and some metabolic disorder.

    In addition, there are various risk factors that can increase the chances of developing kidney stones:

    • Dietary factors include low intake of fluid, and high intake of salts, oxalate-rich foods (eg. peanuts, almonds, strawberries, tea and coffee) and purine-rich foods (eg. organ meats, shellfish)
    • Environmental factors like living in a hot climate which causes excessive sweating, and having a low fluid intake, which leads to reduced urine volume and increased levels of minerals in the urine
    • Genetic factors including a family history of kidney stones
  • The symptoms of kidney stones include:

    • Blood in the urine
    • Difficulty urinating (if the stone is too large)
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Pain when passing urine
    • Severe pain in the back and flanks of the abdomen, radiating towards the front and the groin area
  • There are different treatment options available to treat kidney stones. Your doctor will assess your condition and suggest the appropriate treatment for you, depending on the size and type of your kidney stone(s).

    If your kidney stones are small:

    • No treatment is needed. With plenty of water, the stones may eventually pass out in the urine
    • Pain killers may be prescribed to ease any pain during the passing of the stones

    If your kidney stones are large, the following treatment options are available:

    • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) – a non-invasive procedure where shock waves are sent into the body to break down the kidney stones into smaller pieces, which are then passed out in the urine over the next few days
    • Medication – to help break down the stones. Specific type of medication depends on the type of kidney stones
    • Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy (PCNL) – a surgical procedure that involves making a small cut in the back to allow a special instrument (nephroscope) to be inserted into the kidney to locate and remove the stones
    • Ureterorenoscopy (URS) – a surgical procedure where an endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end) is inserted through the urethra, into the bladder and to the kidney to where the stone is located. The stones are then broken down and removed.
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