Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Director at UK P&I Club, discusses the issue of kidney stones, its impact on crew and measures to prevent and treat the condition:
“Illnesses of any kind onboard a ship can cause distress and disruption for crew, and result in expensive and complicated treatments, interventions and claims. One condition that UK P&I Club regularly sees crewmembers suffering with is kidney stones.
“In a recent case presented to the Club, a crewmember was hospitalised in South America for surgery but the kidney stones could not be removed. The crewmember was provided pain relief and repatriated for follow up treatment. The costs related to the case reached USD 35,000 and resulted in disruption to the ship’s schedule.
What are kidney stones?
“Kidney stones are collections of waste products found in the blood that form little crystals. They can be so tiny that you have no symptoms and pass them in your urine without noticing. Sometimes though, the crystals that form kidney stones can build up and form larger lumps.
Why kidney stones form
“The main reason seafarers develop kidney stones is because they’re not drinking enough fluids so it’s imperative crewmembers stay hydrated, especially in hot and humid environments. However, it can also be down to medication or undiagnosed medical conditions, which can be assessed before boarding a ship.
“There are various symptoms that could indicate the presence of kidney stones, but some definite signs to look out for include kidney and side pain, severe reoccurring spasmodic pain, blood in the urine, and nausea.
“It’s vital that crewmembers know the basics about kidney stones, so that cases can be avoided or detected at an early stage and the number of claims minimised. These underlying conditions often impact on the crew member’s fitness for service and can endanger not only the health of the seafarer but also the onboard safety of other crew.”
For more advice* and a detailed Q&A, please go to: Crew Health Advice: Kidney Stones