Kidney stones are more common than people think, and you can bring pain as you've never experienced before. "They start as crystals in the urine which, over time, can build up to form a stone," says Fadi Housami, urologist and lead stone surgeon at Aintree University Hospital and The Sefton Suite Private Hospital, UK.
Kidney stones come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are like grains of sand but others can grow to the size of a golf ball.
Why are rates rising?
"A combination of obesity, poor hydration, high blood pressure, and a lack of exercise has led to a surge," says professor of urology Bhaskar Somani, at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, UK.
They are primarily found in developed countries, probably because diets are rich in saturated fat, animal protein, sugar and salt, which increase the risk of crystals forming. It is exacerbated by not drinking enough water - and too much caffeine and alcohol.
Inactivity also plays a part.
Signs and symptoms
Patients typically experienced discomfort in the flank (the area on either side of the lower back), burning pain when passing urine, and blood in the urine.
If a stone moves from the kidney to the ureter, it can cause waves of excruciating pain in the back, abdomen, groin, and/or genitals.
There's every chance a tiny stone will pass in urine on its own, although pain relief medication may be required. Slightly larger stones require medical intervention.
Prevention is better than cure
Drink more water. Aim for 2 to 2.5 litres continuously throughout the day.
Keep an eye on the colour of your urine. It should be reasonably dilute - light yellow in colour.
Avoid sugary drinks that contain large amounts of fructose corn syrup which has a strong association with kidney stones.
Avoid high-oxalate food like beetroot, spinach, Swiss chard, and rhubarb. Reduce salt and avoid high protein diets.
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity doubles the risk of kidney stones in women and increases it by 30 percent for men.