Causes, symptoms and treatment of KIDNEY STONES
MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK - PART X
Kidney stones have been affecting mankind from 4000 BC, essentially forever. And the surprising part is, it still affects about 10% of the world population. While we talk about the treatment of kidney stones and the seriousness of the ailment itself in a bit, the concern is that without proper healthcare, about 50% of this 10% population is severely affected by renal failure which can also lead to a failure of the kidney. Also, the chances of a repeat ailment are substantially higher if you have once been affected by it. Estimates from kidney.org say that 50% of the patients will have another stone in 5 to 7 years.
What are kidney stones?
The role of the kidneys is to filter the blood. Blood comes into kidneys, wastes get removed, and salt, water and minerals are adjusted before the blood is recirculated to the body. The wastes are removed from the body in the form of urine (also referred to as one of the "Mala" in Ayurveda).
If these wastes are not cleared, they tend to form crystals, attract other unwashed waste and start getting bigger. This will happen when the there is too little liquid i.e. urine trying to wash away too much solid i.e. waste. This accumulation in the kidneys in the form of hard deposits is know as Kidney stones.
What are major causes for kidney stones formation?
Kidney stone formation can be caused by a number of lifestyle or medication choice. They are:
Less water intake
The most common and easiest to solve for cause of kidney stones is not having enough water and thereby having an insufficient quantity of urine to dissolve all the waste. Also, people living in dry and hot climates need to have higher water intake to avoid kidney stones.
Family or personal history
If someone in the family has had a kidney stone, the likeliness to have a kidney stone is higher. Also, the chances of having a kidney stone second time is as high as 50%.
High BMI (body mass index) have been linked to kidney stones accordingly some studies.
Excessive salt intake, sugar intake, animal proteins and foods containing high oxalates increase the chances of kidney stones. Having large amounts of salt causes more calcium in the urine, making it difficult for the kidneys to process the same resulting in stones. This is also one of the primary reasons for kidney stones in young children who feast on highly processed fast food like potato fries and chips.
Digestive diseases and surgery
Gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory disease or chronic diarrhoea can affect the kidneys functioning to absorb the calcium and water thereby leading to stones
Certain supplements and medications
Certain supplements such as vitamin C, dietary supplements, laxatives (when used excessively), calcium-based antacids, and certain medications used to treat migraines or depression, can increase your risk of kidney stones.
Other medical conditions
Medical conditions such as renal tubular acidosis (acid levels in blood become high), cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism and repeated urinary tract infections also can increase your risk of kidney stones.
What happens when kidney stones are formed? What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
If the stones are small, they get washed away with urine. During such time, one may not even be aware of the formation of the stone. Even if a small stone remains in the kidney for sometime, it does not impact the health or show any symptoms. If the size of the stone is less than 4 mm, there is an 80% chance it will get washed away by urine as per the National Health Portal of India.
But, if the stones are larger, and the treatment of kidney stones is not done in time, they can get lodged into the ureters (tubes connecting the kidney to the bladders) blocking the passage or urine. In such a scenario, one would show the following symptoms:
Severe, sharp pain in the lower back or below the ribs
Pain that radiates from the lower abdominal or groin
Pain that fluctuates like a wave in intensity
Pain or burning sensation while urinating
Fever and chills
Nausea and vomiting
Persistent urge to urinate with very little urine being passed
Change in the colour and smell or urine (blood in urine, colour changing to pink or brown with a foul smell)
Is there any difference in the type of stones?
Kidney stones are broadly divided into four types:
1) Calcium stones
These are the most common form of stones when calcium combines with oxalates to form calcium oxalate stones. Oxalates are developed by the liver and also present in some food items (Spinach, cocoa powder, French fries, okra, etc.). Excess of these foods can lead to kidney stones. The other type of calcium stones are calcium phosphates. These are generally formed because of metabolic conditions like renal tubular acidosis or due to medications used to treat migraines and seizures like topiramate.
2) Sturvite stones
These are formed as a response to urinary tract infections. The bacteria causing the UTI also produces ammonia as a waste product. This makes the urine more alkaline (less acidic). This results in the formations of stones. These can grow big rapidly with little or no symptoms.
3) Uric acid stones
These stones are produced when one has a protein rich diet (foods that contain high purine), looses too much fluid owing to chronic diarrhoea or malabsorption or has diabetes or metabolic syndrome. These can also be caused by generic factors.
4) Cystine stones
These are the rarest form of stones. These are hereditary and are caused by the kidneys excreting too much cystine. Also, the chances of recurrence of the stones is very high.
Are kidney stones curable? What is the possible treatment of kidney stones?
The luckiest treatment for the stone is it being small enough to pass through the urine without even the knowledge of the patient. But not everyone is that lucky. For others, typically an ultrasound or an Xray is carried out to analyse the size of the stone and future course of action. The first step is to prescribe pain medications to alleviate pain and continue to monitor the progress through some changes in lifestyle (having more than usual water, less salt, etc.)
The next step of treatment of kidney stones is "lithotripsy". Under this treatment, ultrasound shock waves are used to break the stone into smaller stones so that they can pass through the urine.
The other treatment for kidney stones is ureteroscopy. This treatment entails inserting an endoscope in the ureters in an attempt to retrieve or break the stone in smaller pieces.
The other important task is for the practitioner to analyse the stone and blood and urine samples for calcium, phosphorus or uric acid and determine the type of stone. This will further lead to devising a plan to avoid the re-formation of a stone in the body.
How can Ayurveda help cure kidney stones?
In Ayurveda , or Sanskrit, renal stones are known as Ashmari. Stones in the urinary tract are known as Moothrashami and specific to kidneys are known as Vrukkashmari.
Ayurveda describes the treatment through the pacnhkarma procedures. The ancient texts also describe many herbs as diuretic to help alleviate the pain and cure kidney stones. Some herbs that help with kidney stones are gokshura (Tribulus terrestris) and Punarnavah (Boerhaavia Diffusa).
Ayurveda suggests lifestyle changes to ensure that the stones do not reoccur. Some of these include regular consumption of coconut water, watermelon juice or sugarcane juice, reduction of protein and salt intake and consumption of barley water.
At Chyavan Rishi Ayur Siddha, we provide an ayurvedic medicine for kidney stones, Chyavan Swachhak. With potent herbs and a combination of coconut water used for consumption, this ayurvedic medicine can be used not only kidney stones but also for liver stones, gallbladder stones and UTIs.
If you would like to read up on the other blogs in this series called 'More common than you think', here are quick links for Urinary Tract Infection, Mental wellness, Tuberculosis, Constipation, Arthritis, Erectile dysfunction, Periodontitis / Pyorrhea, Anaemia, Asthma, GERD / Acidity, Bloating