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Worrying signs of kidney stones

Do you know what the signs of kidney stones are and when should you worry about them?

People who suffer from recurring kidney stones are at elevated risk of renal disease and possible death, according to recent research.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic reported that patients with recurring kidney stones were over three times more at risk of renal disease and 12 percent more at risk of death due to “more substantial renal injury”.

They noted, however, that “the first symptomatic kidney stone does not increase the risk of these outcomes.”

What causes kidney stones?

Kidney stones develop when chemicals in the urine, such as calcium or uric acid, form crystals, often painful.

The causes of kidney stones may include genetics or a diet too rich in animal protein, oxalate, sodium and sugar. Other causes include not enough liquid intake (particularly water), health conditions such as gout, diabetes and obesity, and certain medication such as calcium supplements.

Who is affected?

Globally, about 20 percent of men and 10 percent of women may be affected by kidney stones by age 70 and a US study shows the prevalence of this condition is on the rise.

South Africa is reported to have one of the highest incidences of renal failure in Africa with eight to 10 percent of the adult population suffering from some form of kidney damage.

What are the symptoms?

Dr Preena Sivsankar of The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, says kidney stones are sometimes passed out of the body on their own without causing symptoms or requiring treatment. However, if they become lodged in the urinary system, they may cause intense pain and sometimes lead to bleeding, urinary tract infection or kidney damage.

Symptoms range from lower back pain and frequent urination to nausea, vomiting and chills and/or fever.

A recent UK study found that women who had experienced both, said kidney stones were more painful than childbirth.

“Consult your doctor or preferably your urologist immediately if you experience these symptoms or suspect you may have a kidney stone,” she said.

How are kidney stones treated?

Treatment depends on the size. Small kidney stones may pass spontaneously after the infusion of fluids through a drip, combined with pain medication to relax the ureter.

Larger stones may be managed with laser or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) treatment that break the stone into fragments that may be easily extracted. By using a tiny scope (ureteroscope) these fragments are removed through the bladder and urethra without any incision.

“Prevention is, however, key. Adequate fluid intake and a plant-rich diet may counter kidney stone formation,” she added.

For more information, contact The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, on 012 423 4000 or email




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Urologists are highly trained specialist surgeons who use both medication and surgery as part of a comprehensive approach to care for men and women and children with urological problems. 


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