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Kidney stones vary in size

Kidney stones vary in size
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Kidney stones

Kidney stones form from crystals in the urine (wee). They can be painful and sometimes serious. It is important to see your doctor if you think you might have one.

You’re more likely to get kidney stones if you’ve had one before, if they run in your family, or if you have certain health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure or gout.

Some medications, such as antiviral drugs, can increase your risk.

But for most people, they just happen for no good reason.

There are many types of kidney stones, but most often they are made from calcium.

Kidney stone pain

The pain of kidney stones can be severe, although some people feel no pain. You usually feel it in your back, side, lower belly or groin. It is caused by the stone passing from your kidney to your bladder, or from your bladder to the outside world.

Kidney stone symptoms

If you have kidney stones, you may also:

  • have blood in their your urine
  • feel sick
  • vomit
  • have a fever, hot and cold shivers or sweats
  • feel like you have gravel in your urine
  • feel like you need to pass urine often or urgently.

Kidney stones diagnosis

If your doctor thinks you might have kidney stones, you might be asked to have urine tests, blood tests and scans such as an simple plain x-ray and or an ultrasound.

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine recommends that a computed tomography (CT) scan may not always be necessary to diagnose kidney stones. Ask your doctor if a CT scan is necessary for you. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Kidney stones treatment

You can take simple painkillers like paracetamol if the pain is mild. If the pain is severe, you will need to see your doctor or go to an emergency department.

Ensure you drink adequate amounts of clear fluid such as water.

Most stones are small and come out on their own in the urine. You can check for stones by urinating through a piece of stocking. If you do catch a stone, keep it in a clean jar so your doctor can find out what it is made from.

A larger stone might need to be removed by a surgeon, who can use ultrasound to break it up, or an operation to remove it.

Some people are also advised to take medicine to make the urine less acidic or antibiotics if there there is a kidney or bladder infection.

Preventing kidney stones

You can reduce the risk of getting a kidney stone by:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • eating less meat
  • including citrus fruits, like oranges, in your diet
  • including dairy foods or alternatives in your diet.

If you have had a stone before, your doctor may advise you about additional treatments to help you avoid getting another one.

For more information, visit the Kidney Health Australia website.

Last reviewed: October 2016

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