by Marshaneil Soumi D’ Rozario | 18 JULY 2018
Kidney stones are small masses of salts and minerals that form inside the kidneys. It is estimated that one in ten people will develop a kidney stone during their lifetime, with 5% of the global population affected by this condition.
The stones are formed when urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and clump together. This can occur due to increased concentration of substances such as calcium, oxalates or uric acid, or a decreased concentration of substances that prevent crystals from forming.
According to Dr. Shyam Varma, Consultant Uro-Oncological and Transplant Surgeon, Continental Hospitals, Hyderabad, previous history of kidney stones, obesity and high BMI contribute to kidney stone development. Dehydration, and high protein, sodium and sugar diets also increase the risk. Digestive diseases and gastric bypass surgery can affect absorption of calcium and water, increasing their concentration in urine. Renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism and urinary tract infections may add to the risk.
Symptoms may not manifest until the kidney stones moves within the kidney and passes into the ureter. This can lead to severe pain in the side and back and below the ribs, radiating to the lower abdomen and groin, fluctuating in intensity. Urine may be pink, red or brown in colour and foul-smelling, and urination may be painful. The afflicted may vomit, feel nauseated, and feel a need to urinate more often than usual. Dr. Varma urges anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Kidney stones can be confirmed using blood tests, urine tests, ultrasound, and intravenous urography for analysis, before a course of action is cemented. The treatment of the kidney stone largely depends on its size, and whether it causes pain or blocks the urinary tract. A small stone can be flushed out by drinking large amounts of water. Larger stones require lithotripsy, where the kidney stone is fragmented using a laser, and flushed out, or surgical removal through lithotomy. Even larger stones require open surgery.
Those living in regions with hot and dry climates, and those who exercise regularly, are advised to pay more attention to their water-intake. If enough water is being consumed, urine passed will be light in colour and clear.
Diets that reduce intake of oxalates and salt can prevent formation of kidney stones. Oxalate-rich foods include rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts, tea, chocolate, black pepper, and soy. Non-animal protein sources, such as legumes, should be favoured over meat. While it is okay to consume calcium-rich foods (unless advised against it by a doctor), calcium supplements should be taken with caution.
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