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The arrival of summer is an invitation to a lot of health issues, mainly kidney stones. During summer, the overall increase in humidity makes you sweat more, adding to your risk of dehydration which eventually leads to formation of stones.
Kidney stone problem is medically called nephrolithiasis. The stones are small lumps of waste products (minerals and salts) in the blood that get accumulated inside the kidneys during the process of filtration. Small stones readily get passed through the urine but when the minerals aggregate, they crystallize and become hard to form larger stones which are hard to pass through urine.
In this article, our expert Dr Avinash Ignatius, senior consultant nephrologist, discusses the risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of kidney stones.
What are the risk factors of kidney stones?
Kidney stones occur in about 5% of the population and a person may about have about 8-10% of chances of passing a kidney stone in a lifetime.
Kidney stones are more frequent in men than women, because they have more muscle mass as compared to women. So, the daily breakdown of muscle tissues result in increased metabolic wastes and a predisposition to stone formation. Other risk factors include:
Next: Early symptoms, complications and diagnosis of kidney stones
What are the early symptoms of kidney stones?
Unfortunately, kidney stones do not cause any symptoms until they move around in your kidney or pass through your ureter, the tube connecting the kidneys and urinary bladder. In fact, small stones may pass out even without causing any symptoms. But, with larger stones, following symptoms may be seen:
Can kidney stones lead to kidney failure or death?
Untreated kidney stones can significantly damage the kidneys and even lead to end stage renal disease (ESRD), requiring dialysis. But early detection and treatment may completely reverse the damage, even in those on dialysis. Unfortunately many a times, the kidney stones remain undetected for years, because minor symptoms are ignored/neglected and by the time the patient consults a doctor the damage becomes irreversible or only partially reversible.
How is the condition diagnosed?
Ultrasound of the kidney, ureter and bladder (KUB) is the most convenient and frequently used investigation to diagnose kidney stones. An X-ray KUB can further assist in diagnosis. However, in case the stones are small, the patient is obese or there is lot of gas in the abdomen, a CT scan is better method of diagnosis.
Next: Treatment of kidney stones
What are the treatment options?
Treatment is based on the size of the stones.
Smaller stones can be treated with plenty of fluids, pain medications and certain anti spasmodic drugs (pain and spasm relieving) which help in passing the stone out. But even when the symptoms disappear, it is essential to confirm whether the stone has been eliminated through an ultrasound or a CT scan.
Larger stones which do not pass out easily require medical therapy and more advanced treatments.
What are the chances of recurrence of stones after treatment?
The chances of recurrence of kidney stones are quite high. More than half people, who have had a stone in the past, will develop a new stone in their lifetime.
Next: Expert tips to prevent kidney stones
Can you provide some tips to prevent kidney stones?
1. Good fluid intake: Kidney stone patients should be passing about 2.5 3.0 litres of urine a day. So, in hot climate a little higher intake of fluids is needed.
2. Less intake of oxalate-rich foods: If you tend to form calcium oxalate stones, your doctor may recommend you to restrict the intake of oxalate-rich foods like rhubarb, beets, okra (bindi), spinach (palak), Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, nuts, tea, chocolate and soy products.
3. Low salt and low animal protein: Reduce the amount of salt you eat and choose non-animal protein sources, such as legumes.
4. Do not avoid calcium-rich foods: Calcium in food doesn't have an effect on your risk of developing kidney stones. Restricting calcium rich foods can actually increase the risk of forming stones.
5. Limit calcium supplements: You should avoid taking calcium supplements, unless advised by your doctor.
Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease.
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