What are kidney stones?

And how to avoid them

They may be small, but they can cause a huge amount of pain. Anyone who’s experienced kidney stones knows just how excruciating they can be, but what causes them?

Kidney stones are hard little “stones” made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. Their size can range from millimetres to centimetres in length and you can develop one kidney stone or several at the same time.

Kidney stones can occur not only in your kidney but also in the tube that leads from your kidney to your bladder (the ureter). They can be very painful – some women say even more painful than childbirth. Other times they can pass with only a small amount of pain or no pain at all. Sometimes medical treatment is needed, including surgery, to break them into smaller pieces or to remove them.

How do you know if you have a kidney stone? Here are some common symptoms:

  • blood in your urine
  • cloudy or smelly urine
  • peeing frequently
  • pain when peeing
  • difficulty peeing
  • severe back or side pain (can include belly or groin pain)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever or chills (if an infection is present).

What is the best way to avoid kidney stones?

Kidney stones are more common in men, if you’re obese, or aged 30 to 50. Here are some tips to avoid kidney stones:

  • drink lots of water – make sure your urine is pale yellow to clear; anything darker means you aren’t drinking enough water
  • cut down on the amount of salt you have in your food – that includes cutting down on eating processed foods
  • avoid eating too much protein, like red meat, eggs and cheese
  • make sure you get enough calcium in your diet as low levels can encourage stones to form.

Please see your doctor immediately if you have any symptoms of kidney stones.