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Kidney stones syndrome Symptoms, Signs, Causes and Treatments

Kidney Stones Syndrome, also known as nephrolithiasis, is a common condition characterised by the formation of hard deposits in the kidneys. These deposits, known as kidney stones, can vary in size and composition and cause severe pain and discomfort. The prevalence of kidney stone syndrome is on the rise, affecting both men and women of all ages. It is estimated that around 10% of the population will experience kidney stones at some point in their lives.

By Able Health I Medically reviewed by Dr. Alireza Estedlal

Page last reviewed: February 2024 I Next review due: February 2026

Summary

  • Kidney stones syndrome can cause severe pain in the back, side, and lower abdomen.
  • Common signs of kidney stones syndrome include nausea, vomiting, and blood in the urine.
  • Dehydration, high salt intake, and certain medical conditions can increase the risk of developing kidney stones syndrome.
  • There are different types of kidney stones, including calcium stones and uric acid stones, each with their own symptoms.
  • Treatment options for kidney stones syndrome range from pain relief medications to surgical procedures, depending on the severity of the condition.

Understanding the Symptoms of Kidney Stones Syndrome

The symptoms of kidney stone syndrome can vary depending on the size and location of the stone. One of the most common symptoms is pain in the back, side, or lower abdomen. This pain can be intense and may come in waves. Other symptoms include painful urination, blood in the urine, nausea and vomiting, and fever and chills. These symptoms can be debilitating and can greatly impact a person's quality of life.

Common Signs of Kidney Stones Syndrome

In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, there are several common signs that may indicate the presence of kidney stones. These include urinary urgency and frequency, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, difficulty passing urine, and painful bowel movements. It is important to note that not all individuals with kidney stones will experience these signs, but they can serve as additional indicators.

Causes of Kidney Stones Syndrome: A Comprehensive Overview

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of kidney stones syndrome. Few of them are following:

  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can lead to concentrated urine, which can cause kidney stones to form.
  • Diet: A diet high in sodium, sugar, and animal protein can increase the risk of kidney stones.
  • Obesity: Being overweight can increase the risk of kidney stones due to changes in metabolism and hormone levels.
  • Family history: Having a family history of kidney stones can increase the likelihood of developing them.
  • Medical conditions: Medical conditions such as gout, hyperparathyroidism, and urinary tract infections can increase the risk of kidney stones.

Risk Factors Associated with Kidney Stones Syndrome

Several risk factors have been identified that can increase a person's likelihood of developing kidney stone syndrome.

  • Age and gender play a role, with men being more prone to developing stones than women.
  • Obesity is another risk factor, as excess weight can lead to increased urinary calcium excretion.
  • Certain medications, such as diuretics and antacids, can also increase the risk of stone formation.
  • Digestive diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and gastric bypass surgery, can also contribute to the development of kidney stones.

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Types of Kidney Stones and Their Symptoms

There are several types of kidney stones, each with its own unique composition and symptoms.

  • Calcium stones are the most common type and are typically made up of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate.
  • Uric acid stones form when there is an excess of uric acid in the urine.
  • Struvite stones are often associated with urinary tract infections and can grow rapidly in size.
  • Cystine stones are rare and are caused by a genetic disorder that leads to high levels of cystine in the urine.

Diagnosis of Kidney Stones Syndrome: Tests and Procedures

To diagnose kidney stones syndrome, healthcare professionals may perform various tests and procedures.

  • Urine tests can help identify any abnormalities in the urine that may indicate the presence of stones.
  • Blood tests can measure levels of certain substances that are associated with stone formation.
  • Imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, can provide detailed images of the kidneys and help identify the location and size of any stones. Stone analysis may also be performed to determine the composition of the stone.

Prevention of Kidney Stones Syndrome: Lifestyle Changes and Diet

Preventing kidney stones syndrome involves making certain lifestyle changes and adopting a healthy diet. One of the most important steps is to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. This helps dilute the urine and reduce the risk of stone formation. Reducing salt intake is also crucial, as high sodium levels can increase calcium excretion in the urine. Limiting oxalate-rich foods, such as spinach, rhubarb, and chocolate, can also help prevent stone formation. Increasing calcium intake from dietary sources is recommended, as it can bind to oxalate in the intestines and prevent its absorption into the urine.

Medications for Kidney Stones Syndrome: Pain Relief and Stone Dissolution

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of kidney stones syndrome and facilitate stone dissolution.

  • Pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help alleviate the intense pain associated with kidney stones.
  • Alpha-blockers may be prescribed to relax the muscles in the urinary tract, making it easier for stones to pass.
  • Thiazide diuretics can help reduce the amount of calcium in the urine, thereby decreasing the risk of stone formation.
  • Uric acid inhibitors may be used to lower uric acid levels in the urine and prevent uric acid stone formation.

Surgical Procedures for Kidney Stones Syndrome: When is it Necessary?

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to treat kidney stones syndrome.

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is a non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break up stones into smaller fragments that can be passed more easily.

Ureteroscopy involves inserting a thin tube into the ureter to remove or break up stones.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is a more invasive procedure that involves making a small incision in the back to access and remove larger stones.

Home Remedies for Kidney Stones Syndrome: Natural Ways to Alleviate Symptoms

In addition to medical treatments, there are several home remedies that may help alleviate the symptoms of kidney stones syndrome. Drinking lemon water can help increase urine citrate levels, which can prevent stone formation. Consuming apple cider vinegar may also help dissolve certain types of stones. Using heat therapy, such as applying a heating pad to the affected area, can help relieve pain and discomfort. Drinking herbal teas, such as dandelion root or nettle leaf tea, may have diuretic properties and help flush out the urinary system.

Complications of Kidney Stones Syndrome: What to Look Out For

If left untreated, kidney stone syndrome can lead to various complications. Urinary tract infections are a common complication, as the presence of stones can create a breeding ground for bacteria. Kidney damage can occur if stones block the flow of urine and cause pressure to build up in the kidneys. Recurrent kidney stones are also a concern, as individuals who have had one stone are more likely to develop additional stones in the future.

Kidney Stones Syndrome in Children: Symptoms and Treatment Options

While kidney stone syndrome is more commonly associated with adults, it can also affect children. The symptoms in children are similar to those in adults and may include abdominal pain, blood in the urine, and frequent urination. Treatment options for children are similar to those for adults and may include pain management, increased fluid intake, and dietary modifications. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.

In conclusion, Kidney Stones Syndrome is a painful condition that can greatly impact a person's quality of life. However, with proper understanding of the symptoms and risk factors, as well as early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, it is possible to manage and prevent kidney stones syndrome. By making lifestyle changes such as staying hydrated, reducing salt intake, and following a balanced diet, individuals can reduce their risk of stone formation. Additionally, medications and surgical procedures are available to alleviate symptoms and facilitate stone dissolution when necessary. It is important to recognise the signs of kidney stone syndrome and seek medical attention if necessary, as early intervention can help prevent complications and improve outcomes.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys. They can vary in size and shape and can cause severe pain when passing through the urinary tract.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

The symptoms of kidney stones include severe pain in the back, side, or lower abdomen, pain during urination, blood in the urine, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

What are the causes of kidney stones?

The causes of kidney stones include dehydration, a diet high in salt and protein, obesity, family history, certain medical conditions such as gout and urinary tract infections, and certain medications.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

Kidney stones are diagnosed through a physical exam, medical history, and imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds.

What are the treatments for kidney stones?

The treatments for kidney stones include drinking plenty of fluids to help pass the stone, pain medication, and, in some cases, surgery or shock wave therapy to break up the stone.

Can kidney stones be prevented?

Kidney stones can be prevented by drinking plenty of fluids, reducing salt and protein intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding certain foods such as spinach, rhubarb, and chocolate.