Common abnormalities that are a source of pain and infection.
Causes of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones, in common with stalagmites and furred-up water systems, are formed by deposits of salts precipitating out from filtered fluid. Kidney stones are made of calcium salts and can be tiny or fill the whole kidney.
Some people are prone to kidney stones, having a constantly high level of calcium in the blood. Any abnormality in the kidney’s anatomy increases the risk. Another reason is low urine output, which is why stones arc more common in hot countries and in summer, as a result of dehydration. Bladder stones form for much the same reasons as kidney stones.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Curiously, the larger stones cause fewer symptoms than the small ones, remaining stable within the kidney. There may be a vague ache over the kidney and an increased risk of urinary infections but, because of their size, the large stones cannot migrate. Small stones, however, eventually begin a journey from the kidney down the ureter to the bladder, with excruciating pain each time one moves, called renal colic. The pain is from spasm in the muscular walls of the ureter plus back pressure from obstruction to the flow of urine down that ureter.
The sickening pain (sec also Gallstones) radiates from over the kidney across the abdomen down to the vagina or tip of the penis. During an attack the individual is sweating, nauseated and in true agony. There is always some blood in the urine. Most stones make this painful journey to the bladder successfully over a few days or weeks, punctuated by several episodes of renal colic. The passage out from the bladder is also uncomfortable but less than that previously experienced.
Classic renal colic is unmistakable. Minor colic is easily misinterpreted as lumbago or non-specific abdominal pain.
Treatment of Kidney Stones
For immediate relief, only the strongest painkillers dull the pain. Pethidine is widely used and diclofenac by injection is as effective and less sedating. Drinking copiously helps flush the stone through. As 90% of stones show on an abdominal X-ray, it is easy to follow their progress.
Long term, an ultrasound scan of the urinary system is a reliable way to detect and monitor stones. Otherwise sufferers have an IVP, an injection of a dye which is
concentrated in the kidneys, so outlining the urinary tract. With patience, fluids and ample painkillers the stones pass.
If a stone sticks the preferred treatment is to shatter it using lithotripsy and the smaller fragments pass out without trouble. Thanks to this, surgery is now uncommon, If necessary, it involves opening the kidney to remove a large stone or passing a clever basket-type trap up the ureter to snare and pull out the stone. Stones are analysed to investigate their composition and blood tests are taken, seeking any biochemical disorder that increases the risks of further stones.
Do kidney stones recur?
Unfortunately they do. There is a high probability of a second kidney stone within a few years of the first one.
Do stones do any permanent damage?
In theory a stone completely obstructing a ureter could cause permanent damage to that kidney. In practice the stone is surgically removed before this. A large stone within the kidney does interfere with the efficiency of that kidney but only rarely is this significant.
Chinese and Western herbalism – anti-inflammatory herbs and herbal diuretics might help. Shiatsu-do boosts immunity. Nutritional therapy – avoid calcium-rich foods, including dairy produce. Stone formation has been linked with vitamin B6 and magnesium deficiencies, so consider supplementation. Drink plenty of hot, sweet drinks. Hypnotherapy there arc cases of kidney stones shrinking and being passed, possibly in response to hypnotic suggestion. Other therapies to try: homeopathy; healing; tai chi/chi kung; reflexology.