Kidney stones are stone-like lumps that can develop in one or both of the kidneys. If the stones cause severe pain, this is known as renal colic. As the kidneys filter waste from the blood, they create urine. Sometimes, salts and other minerals in urine stick together to form small kidney stones. These range from the size of a sugar crystal to a ping pong ball, but they are rarely noticed unless they cause a blockage. They may cause intense pain if they break loose and push into the ureters, the narrow ducts leading to the bladder.
Most stones form due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Risk factors include being overweight, certain foods, some medications, and not drinking enough fluids. The diagnosis is usually based on symptoms, urine testing, and medical imaging. Blood tests may also be useful. Urinary stones are typically classified by their location in the kidney (nephrolithiasis), ureter (ureterolithiasis), or bladder (cystolithiasis), or by their chemical composition (calcium-containing, struvite, uric acid, or other compounds).
Kidney stones are quite common and usually affect people aged 30 to 60 years. They affect men more than women. It is estimated that renal colic affects about 10-20% of men and 3-5% of women.
Most stones form due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Risk factors include being overweight, certain foods, some medications, and not drinking enough fluids. The waste products in the blood can occasionally form crystals that collect inside the kidneys. Over time, the crystals may build up to form a hard stone-like lump.
This is more likely to happen if you don’t drink enough fluids, are taking some types of medication, or have a medical condition that raises the levels of certain substances in your urine.
When kidney stones move through the urinary tract, they may cause:
- Severe pain in the back, belly, or groin
- Frequent or painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Small stones may pass without causing symptoms
Current dietary recommendations to minimize the formation of kidney stones include:
- Increasing total fluid intake to more than two litres per day of urine output
- Increasing citric acid intake; lemon/lime juice is the richest natural source
- Moderate calcium intake
- Limiting sodium intake
- Avoidance of large doses of supplemental vitamin C
- Limiting animal protein intake to no more than two meals daily (an association between animal protein consumption and recurrence of kidney stones has been shown in men
- Limiting consumption of cola soft drinks, which contain phosphoric acid, to less than one litre of soft drink per week
Kidney stones are rarely diagnosed before they begin causing pain. This pain is often severe enough to send patients to the ER, where a variety of tests can uncover the stones. These may include a CT scan, X-rays, ultrasound, and urinalysis. Blood tests can help look for high levels of minerals involved in forming kidney stones.
When the stone size is small, homeopathy is likely to help in the passage of stone as well as in relieving the agonizing pain caused by the same. If the stone size is larger, or the stone is impacted, or there are multiple stones, then the patient is better treated surgically. However, even after surgical removal of stones, homeopathy still has a role to play in preventing its recurrence (as the chance of having recurring stones are about 70-80%).