A: Dear Jonathan,
Kidney stones occur when mineral salts crystallise in the kidneys. Tiny crystals pass out of the body in urine but the larger stones cause a back-up of urine in the kidneys, ureter and the bladder, causing pain.
Untreated kidney stones might indeed increase the risk of kidney failure, causing blockage in blood urine flow. This can eventually result in a dilated kidney with minimal function.
However, the percentage of kidney failure related to kidney stone is small compared to diabetes and hypertension. In addition, kidney stones usually cause pain, hence are very seldom left untreated till its deterioration to kidney failure. Kidney stones usually cause damage to one kidney and kidney failure, also known as End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) happens only when both kidneys do not function properly.
There is also the likely occurrence of “silent” stones, which cause no pain and symptoms. They are often left untreated for long months to years, occasionally leading to kidney damage. One in 10 people will develop kidney stones at some stage of their lives. It is best to prevent them by drinking 2 to 3 liters of water, reduce the consumption of oxalate-rich foods like spinach, chocolate, nuts, tea, soya products, berries and salt and increase calcium intake. Specific measures to treat kidney stones, depend on the type of kidney stones. It is important to do a chemical analysis of the stone. Prevention is always better than cure as the saying goes.