Kidney stones are affecting about 12% of the world’s population, including India. A study conducted around a year back suggests that 50% of these people may also end up losing their kidney functions. Hence, while it is usually not considered as a fatal disease, the dangers of ignoring this, cannot be overlooked. Typically, the increase in the instances of people with kidney stones is said to be due to the modern lifestyle, lack of proper exercise, and diet. At times, certain medicines may also be the culprit.
Medically this is called renal lithiasis, or nephrolithiasis and can affect any part of your urinary tract, which includes the kidneys and bladder. The condition occurs when stones form due to the urine concentration, which allows minerals to crystallize and stick together to form a ‘stone’. At times, these are quite harmless and may pass without causing any harm or pain. There are even instances when people were not even aware of having and passing them. At times, passing them may turn out painful, and sometimes also needs medical intervention.
Possibly, one may not have any symptoms at all, as mentioned above. But the usual symptoms associated with this condition are:
- Pain in the side or back, (below the ribs, and sometimes significant)
- Pain while urinating
- Radiating pain in the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain in waves that fluctuate in intensity
- Color change in urine to pink, red or brown
- Foul-smelling urine
- Frequent, urgent need to urinate
- Nausea or vomiting
- Urinating in small amounts
In extreme cases, fever and chills may also occur, only if an infection is also present. When the stone(s) move, the location of the pain as well as the intensity may change. If you consistently find being affected by any one or a combination of the above symptoms, you should consult a doctor.
Risk factors for Kidney Stones
Various risk factors can contribute to kidney stones. It is good to be aware of the same, so you can combine this with the symptoms to suspect on possible kidney stones.
Family history – People with a family history of kidney stones are more likely to get it. Also, there are always chances of recurrences in this as well.
Dehydration– Not keeping your body hydrated by drinking enough water increases your chances of getting kidney stones. This is true especially for people who live in warmer climates, as they sweat a lot.
Diet– A high protein diet, or excessive salt (sodium) and sugar also increases your risk of kidney stones. In this, salt happens to be one of the most prime factors.
Obesity – Being obese has been linked to a higher risk of kidney stones.
Digestive issues – Certain digestive tract issues, or surgeries are done for these can affect the digestive process, limiting the absorption of calcium and water, which in turn, aids the stone formation.
Besides all the above points, certain medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, renal tubular acidosis, urinary tract infections, hyperparathyroidism, medullary sponge kidney, and Dent’s disease also increase the chances of kidney stones.
Most often, unless the symptoms are very severe, the doctors would advise you to drink more water and pass the stones naturally through the urine. Sometimes, hospitalization may be needed, wherein they provide IV hydration with anti-inflammatory medicine, especially if the pain is more. At times, a shock wave therapy called lithotripsy may also be done. Surgical removal of stones is also done in certain instances. The treatment is entirely dependent on the individual, and the nature of the stones, as well as the personal and medical history of the patient.
Prevention is always the best cure. Hence, one can try to avoid getting kidney stones by following certain dietary restrictions. Drinking plenty of water, limiting salt, and foods with animal-based protein as well as high oxalates can help a lot in preventing or even a recurrence of the stones. Also, one needs to be cautious about taking too much calcium as supplements.
Foods that are recommended to have are:
- Milk and milk-based products
- Calcium-fortified foods (Cereals, bread, juices, flakes, etc.)
- Fresh citrus fruits
- Plant-based proteins like beans, peas, and lentils