Some health conditions are just too painful, and need immediate intervention. But the encouraging bit about these conditions is that they are preventable, too, and you only need to be vigilant and proactive about health. One such common ailment is that of kidney stones, which are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside our kidneys. Diet, body weight and certain supplements or medications are among the many causes, says Dr Shalabh Aggarwal, Department of Urology & Andrology, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.
What happens when stones are formed?
“These stones can affect any part of the urinary tract, from kidneys to bladder. Often, stones form when the urine becomes thickened, allowing minerals to harden and stick together. Passing kidney stones can be quite painful, but they usually cause no permanent damage if they’re recognised in a timely order,” says the doctor, adding: “Depending on the criticality of the situation, one may need nothing more than taking a pain medication and drinking lots of water to pass a kidney stone. In other cases, for instance, if stones get blocked in the urinary tract and cause infection then surgery becomes a must.”
What are the causes of kidney stones?
The kidney usually filters out waste chemicals in urine, such as calcium and phosphate. Sometimes the kidney is not able to filter these waste products out. This can happen when there is excess waste and inadequate liquid in the kidney, causing crystals to form. Once these crystals form into kidney stones, these stones may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract. Sometimes, however, people are unable to pass these stones, which causes a slowdown of urine in the body, leading to complications, explains Dr Aggarwal.
* Stay hydrated: Drinking more water is the first step one must take to prevent kidney stones. This helps in diluting urine, in flushing out the kidneys and urinary tract, so that stones don’t collect. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day and 1 glass every hour.
* Reduce sodium intake: A high intake of salt in diet increases the risk of calcium kidney stones. Too much salt in the urine prevents calcium from being reabsorbed from the urine to the blood, causing high urine calcium.
* Eat calcium rich food: Dietary calcium lowers the concentration of oxalate in the urine, so there is less chance of it binding to urinary calcium leading to a decreased risk of kidney stones. It is best to get calcium from milk, yoghurt, beans and bread.
* Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks: Drinks that contain a lot of sugar, especially coffee and colas, increase the risk of recurring kidney stones.
* Avoid stone-forming foods: Chocolates, nuts, spinach must be avoided. These food items contain oxalate which may increase risk.
* Lower animal protein: Too much meat, poultry, eggs and seafood can boost calcium and uric acid in the body causing kidney stones.
* Avoid high doses of vitamin C: Consuming too much vitamin C has the potential to increase the amount of oxalate in urine, thus increasing the risk of developing kidney stones, particularly if an individual has a history of calcium oxalate stones.
“The treatment for a kidney stone depends on the size of the stone, what it is made of, whether it is causing pain or blocking the urinary tract. A kidney stone is diagnosed through a urine test, blood test, X-ray and/or CT scan. The treatment can include taking pain-relief medicines and drinking plenty of fluids to help push the stone through the urinary tract. If the stone is large, or is blocking the urinary tract, additional treatment, such as surgery might be necessary,” Dr Aggarwal concludes.