Kidney stones are a painful and potentially dangerous condition that can affect both men and women as they age. The symptoms of kidney stones can often be quite subtle to begin with and may be overlooked until more serious problems affect sufferers. If your doctor suspects that you have kidney stones, you will be referred to a specialist urology clinic for treatment. But what are kidney stones and what signs should you look out for? Read on to find out more.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are effectively 'pebbles' formed by salt and minerals in your urine. Kidney stones can vary in size from tiny grains to much larger, golf ball-sized structures. Some stones remain in situ where they form, in the kidneys and don't cause problems, and the tiniest stones often pass out of your body, undetected, in your urine. Larger stones may become wedged in one of the tubes that passes from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters), or in the tube that runs from the bladder out of the body (urethra), and it's these stones that cause pain.
Causes of kidney stones
The most usual cause of kidney stones is not drinking sufficient water. It's recommended that you drink around eight glasses of water every day to keep your kidneys flushed through. If your urine is clear or light yellow in colour, your water consumption is fine. Very dark urine can indicate that you need to drink more water in order to dilute it.
Kidney stones can also be caused by medical conditions, such as gout, and they may also be an inherited problem.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
Kidney stones often present no symptoms at all until they begin to move and block the flow of urine through the ureters or urethra. When a blockage occurs, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- sharp pains in your back and side
- sharp pains in your groin, or testicles in men
- nausea and vomiting
- bloody urine
- needing to urinate frequently
Kidney stones can also cause infections which may present the following symptoms:
- fever and flu-like aches
- pain when urinating
- urine that is cloudy or has an unpleasant smell
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, it's possible you could have a kidney stone, and you should seek medical advice without delay. Your GP will refer you to a specialist urology clinic for a definitive diagnosis and treatment.