Kidney Stones: Advice on Causes and Prevention
Updated: Sep 19
Dear Dr Makis,
I keep developing kidney stones. This has been a problem over the last 5 years. I have been hospitalised twice because of severe pain and I have had a few procedures to help get rid of them but they keep coming back. Do you have any advice?
Kidney stones are hard stones that can form in the kidney, in the tube (the ureter) draining urine from the kidney, or in the bladder. Our kidneys remove many different chemicals from our body. This is really important to keep us healthy. These chemicals are passed from our kidneys to our bladder and out of our body. Occasionally these chemicals can join together and form kidney stones.
Kidney stones are common and occur in up to 1 in 7 people. Each year 1 or 2 people in every 1,000 will have symptoms caused by kidney stones. About 1 in 8 men and 1 in 16 women will have an episode of pain caused by kidney stones at some time in their lives. If you have a kidney stone there is about a 1 in 2 chance of having another stone within the following five years. Kidney stones are more common in people who are overweight, have diabetes or hypertension. You're also more likely to develop kidney stones if you do not drink enough water and other fluids.
Kidney stones come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. Some are like grains of sand, while in rare cases others can grow to the size of a golf ball. The main types of kidney stones include calcium stones, these are the most common type of stone; struvite stones are usually caused by an infection like a urine infection; and uric acid stones are caused by a large amount of acid in your urine.
People who keep getting kidney stones include those who eat a high-protein, low-fibre diet. Also, those who are inactive or bed-bound, those who have a family history of kidney stones, those who have had several kidney or urinary infections and if they have had a kidney stone before, particularly if it was before they were 25 years old.
Certain medicines may increase your risk of developing recurrent kidney stones. These include, aspirin, antacids, diuretics (water tablets), certain antibiotics and antiretroviral medicines and certain anti-epileptic medicines.
To prevent stones returning, you should aim to drink up to 3 litres (5.2 pints) of fluid throughout the day, every day. Adding fresh lemon juice to your water can also help. Drinks like tea, coffee and fruit juice can count towards your fluid intake, but water is the healthiest option and is best for preventing kidney stones developing.
You should also make sure you drink more when it's hot or when you're exercising to replace fluids lost through sweating. Try and avoid fizzy drinks and do not eat too much salt.
Keeping your urine clear helps to stop waste products getting too concentrated and forming stones. You can tell how diluted your urine is by looking at its colour. The darker your urine is, the more concentrated it is. Your urine is usually a dark yellow colour in the morning because it contains a build-up of waste products that your body's produced overnight.
Depending on the type of stones you have, your doctor may advise you to cut down on certain types of food. This is something you need to discuss with your own doctor, they can also check if you have high levels of uric acid in your blood, this can be lowered to help prevent you developing stones. Also, if you are on any of the medication I mentioned before then it is worth discussing this with your doctor too.
Dr Makis offers medical advice via his monthly article in the Paphos Post newspaper. If you require personal medical advice, contact your own GP in the first instance. For further information about Veramedica Medical Center, please contact us.