Kidney Stones: A growing problem
Kidney stones is one of the most common kidney problems. Leaving them untreated can cause obstruction in the urine flow, leading to permanent damage of kidneys. Kidney stones are medically referred to as ‘renal calculi’.
Kidney stones are nothing but hard deposits that form inside the kidneys when various chemicals present in the urine get disturbed. These chemicals precipitate to form crystals causing stones. Number, size and location of the kidney stones may generally vary. There can be more than one stone. They may be present in kidneys or ureter (tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder).
Causes of stone formation
1. Low intake of water
2. High intake of salt and sugar
3. Dehydration due to exercise
4. Medicines, which are used to treat HIV infections
6. Certain inherited disease such as Hypercalciuria (high calcium in urine)
7. Cystineuria (High content of cystine)
8. Diseases such as gout and IBS
Patients with small stones may not show any symptoms. However, those with bigger stones in kidneys may show symptoms such as
Types of stones
- Difficulty in passing urine
- Pain in the lower abdomen that increases while passing the urine
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea or vomiting
Kidney stones can be of various types such as
Uric acid stones:
These stones are formed in people who have persistent acidic urine. Increased level of acidic urine leads to formation of stones in the kidneys.
The most common stones seen in most of the patients are due to high levels of calcium oxalate in the urine.
Certain genetic issues cause some people to excrete large amount of cysteine in the urine, thus resulting in the formation of stones.
Frequent UTIs with bacteria create an atmosphere favourable to the formation of the stones made up of magnesium phosphate.
To diagnose if someone is having kidney stones, doctors usually recommend urine test and blood test. Sometimes to get a more comprehensive picture, s/he may suggest X-ray, CAT scan or ultrasound of kidneys and urinary tract.
Small stones can easily pass through the urinary tract not causing any pain and can be treated with just medications and simple diet modifications. However, it is the bigger stones which require surgical intervention for their removal. Shock waves and laser therapy are sometimes used to break and destroy the stones.
1. Increase your intake of water for diluting the urine and for preventing the concentration of chemicals in the kidneys.
2. Diet modification is important:
- Lower the intake of salt and sugar.
- Avoid consumption of coffee and tea.
- Lemon and cranberry juices are a good bet.
- Avoid oxalate rich foods such as spinach and nuts if you have calcium oxalate kidney stones.