Kidney Stones: Part 1

Hi friends, happy Friday! How was your week that went by?

It was a little unsettling for me as my mom has been diagnosed with kidney stones and she might require a surgery to remove those. The pain and discomfort that she went through, bothers me a lot. As of today, she has visited the doctor, gotten all her tests done as well as has received her medicines but still, it bothers me because I feel that in her case, it could have been prevented to a lot of extent. I still have hope that she passes the stones without a surgery!

My parents eat healthy and stay active physically so thankfully, I rest easy on their health front but this kidney-stone episode tells me that despite being healthy and active, many of us overlook small things that could have saved us a lot of pain/discomfort in long run e.g. most of us don’t take drinking water seriously. In case of older people, the problem of frequent urination keeps them wary of drinking plenty of water.

Kidney stones is probably one of the most painful diseases and one that can be prevented to a lot of extent.

First, what are kidney stones?

Kidney stones (also called nephrolithiasis) are hard deposits of minerals (or salts) that form in the kidneys. These hard formations can affect any part of the urinary tract, be it the bladder, ureters, urethra or the kidneys. Passing these stones is quite painful and they can cause permanent damage if left untreated for long. Some stones are so small and easily pass with urine that we might never know it even happened!

Technically, not all kidney stones are the same. There are four main types of kidney stones:

  • Calcium stones – a majority of the kidney stones are calcium stones in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is made in our body by our liver or absorbed from our diets. Calcium or oxalate levels in blood can also rise from high doses of vitamin D, bypass surgeries, metabolic disorder (e.g. calcium phosphate stone in renal tubular acidosis). Some medications for migraines are also found associated with these stones. However, this isn’t as simple as – ‘avoid calcium to avoid stones’. On the contrary, a lack of calcium can also increase your risk of kidney stones. More on oxalates, their relationship with calcium etc in the next post!
  • Struvite stones – formed as a result of urinary infections, these stones grow fairly large, quickly and often with no/few symptoms
  • Uric acid stones – could be genetic but can also develop in people who tend to lose a lot of fluid due to chronic diarrhea/absorption issues etc, as well as people with high protein diets
  • Cystine stones – due to a rare hereditary disorder called cystinuria, this stone develops due to an amino acid that leaks from the kidneys and gets into the urine

Did you know?

Your weight has a lot to do with the stones in your urine. It might seem unlikely but many researches have proved that being overweight can up the odds significantly!

Symptoms

Generally, intense pain in itself is a symptom. One should immediately see a doctor if:

  • the pain is a sharp-severe pain in the side and back, just below the ribs. My mom mistook this pain as gas-pain and had to suffer for many days before she decided to get some tests done. If she were able to identify the pain earlier, it would have been easier for her
  • the pain spreads to lower abdomen and to the groin area
  • the pain fluctuates or moves around
  • there is a burning sensation while urinating (similar to an UTI)
  • one has fever along with pain/burning which would indicate an infection (just like an UTI)
  • the urine is cloudy and bad-smelling
  • there is blood in urine (i.e. urine is red, pink or brown in colour)
  • there is nausea and vomiting along with pain
  • frequent urination is there and/or one is urinating small amounts frequently
  • one has fever along with pain/burning which would indicate an infection (just like an UTI)

Why do stones happen?

There is no one reason that one can avoid and stay assured of never having a kidney stone. However, taking care of a few things can greatly reduce our risk of having one. Kidney stones may happen primarily reasons such as:

  • Low intake of water – When the urine becomes concentrated, the minerals present in it can crystalize and stick together. Having not enough water everyday can increase the risk greatly
  • Diet – High-protein diets and diets high in salt/sugar may increase the risk to a lot of extent
  • Excess body weight – High BMI individuals and over-weight people are more prone to kidney stones
  • Personal history – Someone who has had a kidney stone in past, is always at a higher risk of having another stone. Same with someone with a family history of kidney stones
  • Medical conditions – Chronic UTIs, Celiac, Crohn’s, hyperparathyroidism, renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria etc increases the risk of developing kidney stones
  • Certain supplements/medications – Having high dosages of vitamin C supplements and laxatives, calcium-based antacids etc as well as certain migraine or depression medications can increase the risk significantly

There isn’t a guarantee of never having a kidney stone, for anyone. What we can do is to take necessary precautions and keep our diet and lifestyle in such a way that it is at an optimum level for our body. This way, we do not have to worry about a lot of illnesses or diseases, all separately. A good, well-balanced diet coupled with an active lifestyle can prevent us from most diseases in life.

In the next post, a sequel to today’s part 1, let’s discuss oxalates and a few things/foods that might help us in preventing the kidney stones and God forbid, if we still get a stone formed – how to get rid of it (of course, after the mandatory visit to a medical specialist).

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Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

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