RANGING in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball, kidney stones have been known to cause such excruciating pain on either side of your back or abdomen, having you rush to a hospital ER, or in some cases undergoing surgery.
How can a “stone” put you through so much agony—and how do they get in your kidneys in the first place? “Also known as renal calculi, kidney stones are irregularly shaped solid masses of minerals and salts that form around your urinary tract, which is made up of your two kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters,” says Eladio Miguel M. Peñaranda Jr., MD, Department Chair of Nephrology of the country’s top medical institution Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed, www.makatimed.net.ph).
Medical conditions, certain prescription drugs, and what you eat cause kidney stones to form. “Calcium stones develop from consuming too much potato chips, peanuts, chocolates, and spinach. Stones formed from uric acid are due to a diet rich in purine, a substance found in seafood and meat. People prone to urinary tract infections tend to get kidney stones made of the phosphate mineral struvite. And a rare genetic disorder called cystinuria produces kidney stones made of the amino acid cystine,” continues Peñaranda.
If your kidney stones are tiny enough, you won’t even know they’re there and they can pass through your urinary tract without you feeling a thing. But at a certain size, they can get lodged in your ureter, that narrow passageway that drains urine from your kidney to your bladder. “It takes about a day or two for a kidney stone smaller than 4 millimeters to exit your ureter, and at least two weeks before you can pee stones larger than 4 millimeters,” explains Peñaranda.
Aside from unbearable pain on your lower back or side of your body, other symptoms of trapped kidney stones include nausea or vomiting, fever or chills, and issues with urinating: from blood, a foul odor, or cloudiness in your pee to the need to urinate frequently or not being able to urinate at all.
X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds can detect if your symptoms are indeed caused by kidney stones. Medications can help you manage pain and nausea, and also allow your ureter to relax so you can pass the stone. “Should you need surgery, doctors perform a minimally invasive procedure involving small incisions and shockwaves to break up the stones,” shares Peñaranda.
Do you have high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, gout, or a family history of kidney stones? These increase your risk of developing them. Lower your chances by following these simple suggestions from MakatiMed:
n Drink, drink, drink. Water isn’t the only liquid that doctors recommend. Lemon juice contains citrate, which helps prevent kidney stones from forming. The point is to keep yourself constantly hydrated so you pee more often, flushing out the substances that cause kidney stones to form.
n Cut down on salt. Too much salt in your diet increases the amount of calcium in your urine, making you prone to forming kidney stones.
n Manage weight. Studies show that obesity and a high body mass index raise the chances of developing kidney stones. When you’re overweight, you’re most likely eating junk food, fast foods, and processed foods that can lead to kidney stone development. Being overweight also means you’re prone to hypertension and diabetes, which increase your risk for kidney stones. Regular exercise coupled with eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and high-quality protein in moderation will keep your weight down and prevent kidney stones.
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