Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kidney Stones: are you at risk?

Kidney stoneImage via Wikipedia
Our lifestyle and diet puts us at risk for many chronic disease, including the debilitating pain of kidney stones.  Are you at risk for kidney stones?  What can be done to lessen the chances of developing kidney stones?

What are kidney stones?

I can't tell you how many times during the wee morning hours of the night shift in the Emergency Room that a man-or woman came running in doubled over in pain cold, clammy and diaphoretic (cold sweat) screaming in pain.  Some so sick that they vomited. At first glance you might think MI (myocardial infarction or heart attack). Now that is pain.

Kidney stones are made up of salts and minerals in the urine that stick together to form small pebbles.  They can be as small as grains of sand or as large as golf balls. They may remain in the kidney, or, they may travel out of the kidney through  the ureters (tubes that carry urine to the bladder). They proceed into the bladder, then exit the body through urethra, the opening that allows urine to exit the body.
In addition to pain, their may also be blood in the urine along with fever.

Who is at risk?

One such risk factor is family history.  Almost all cases that I saw in the ED were accompanied by someone else in the family having kidney stones.  Also important is the patient's own history.  Nine times our of ten, if a patient was suspected of having kidney stones, but never received following testing, you can almost be sure that a full blown attack will follow.  Other such person at risk are obese patients and those consuming a high salt or high-protein diet.  Certain medical conditions such as sarcoidosis can also raise the risk.

What can you do?

In an acute attack, go the the ED.Obviously, pain relief, hydration and confirmation of suspected problem will be done. Apart from that, incorporate into your lifestule plenty of fluids such as water, lemonade and orange juice.  They contain citrate, which helps to prevent stone formation.

Also bypass the salt and cut the consumption of meat.  Many patient have told me that they consume large amounts of meat. For example, one guy told me that before coming to the ER he had eaten one pound of sausage during dinner.  Hmmm, cut out health compromising foods.

Finally avoid foods high in oxalates such as coffee, tea and chocolate.

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