The oh so painful kidney stones

Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, form as a result of build-up of dissolved minerals on the kidney’s inner lining. They are solid crystals made up of calcium oxalate, among other minerals and compounds usually found in urine.

It is estimated that one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their life. Once someone has had a kidney stone, it is highly likely that they will experience more kidney stones. The lifetime incidence of kidney stones is nearly 13 per cent in men and 17 per cent in women.

Some people can have small kidney stones, which can be passed unnoticed when urinating. However, in some people, kidney stones can grow to the size of a golf ball, while maintaining their sharp, crystalline structure. Needless to say, this leads to severe pain in the groin area or sides.

How kidney stones form

To understand what kidney stones really are, think of them as solidified urine. This happens when there is too much waste, and too little water to help flush it out. This is why kidney stones are mostly found in individuals who don’t drink enough water.

Crystals begin to form due to build-up of waste, gradually attracting other elements to join together to form a solid mass in the kidneys. These masses can be passed in the urine without causing too much pain. However, stones that are retained can cause a backup of urine in the kidneys, ureter, bladder or urethra- causing an individual severe pain.

Symptoms

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The symptoms of kidney stones might not occur until the stones begin to move down to the ureter. This causes severe pain in the groin, sides, back, or abdomen. This pain is known as renal colic.

Other symptoms of kidney stones include:

·         Blood in your urine

·         Frequent need to urinate and urinating only small amounts of urine.

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Discoloured or foul-smelling urine

·         Chills or fever

Who is at risk?

·         Kidney stones are more common in men than women.

·          People who have a family history of kidney stones are also more likely to suffer from kidney stones.

·         Certain medications, such as topiramate (a drug used to treat seizures and migraines) can increase the risk of kidney stones.

·          In addition, long term use of Vitamin D and calcium supplements can also raise the body’s calcium levels, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones.

·         A diet high in protein and sodium but low in calcium

·         Other factors include: a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, having had gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic diarrhoea.

Treatment

The only way to treat and relieve pain from kidney stones is by passing the stone. If you have experienced passing kidney stones before, you can wait to pass the stone as you apply home remedies. However if this is your first time, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

If a doctor determines that hospital treatment to be necessary, you might be rehydrated intravenously and given anti-inflammatory medication. You might also be given pain killers to make the pain of passing a stone more tolerable.

In some cases, doctors also use lithotripsy (shock wave therapy), which breaks up the kidney stone into smaller pieces which you can pass in urine more easily.

If you have a large kidney stone located in areas where lithotripsy isn’t advisable, surgical procedures might be necessary.

Home remedies

There are some herbal tea mixtures, which you can find at health stores, which you can take to ease pain from kidney stones. These teas often contain parsley leaf and root. Parsley is known to increase urine output. It also boosts blood flow to the kidneys, preventing the formation of kidney stones.

Another common ingredient is gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum), which is used to relax the muscles around the ureter to allow you to pass kidney stones.

Other effective home remedies include lemon juice, basil juice, apple cider vinegar, celery juice, and pomegranate juice,

Prevention

To prevent kidney stones from forming, you should always drink enough water. If you notice your urine getting dark yellow and pungent, you are getting dehydrated and it is time to drink some water.

Eat more fruits and vegetables – they’re a great source of phytate, a nutrient that reduces the risk of kidney stones. However, avoid foods high in oxalates such as spinach, other dark green veggies,  beets, and rhubarb.

Eat foods high in calcium content. Although it seems counter-intuitive, the more calcium you include in your diet, the less oxalic acid you absorb- hence lowering the risk of developing kidney stones.

Other prevention measures include limiting salt and sugar intake, losing excess weight, and taking magnesium supplements.

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