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Kidney Stones: How They Form And How They Are Treated

They form in the urinary tract when too many mineral salts or urine volume is reduced. Today they can be eliminated thanks to minimally invasive treatments with laser technologies. More and more suffer from kidney stones, According to statistics, 100,000 new cases are recorded every year. Blame, in most cases, an incorrect diet and a sedentary lifestyle, the first risk factors for forming these “pebbles” in the urinary tract: kidney, ureter, and bladder.

To solve the problem, it may be sufficient to increase the number of liquids and wait for the body to eliminate them. When, on the other hand, the stones are large and cause pain, it is possible to “pulverize” them by resorting to pharmacological treatments and minimally invasive surgery with the use of laser technologies. 

How Stones Are Formed

Stones are formed by crystals contained in the urine that precipitate and aggregate. More specifically, their formation occurs inside the kidney through a chemical process called ‘supersaturation’ in most cases. The limit is reached when there are too many mineral salts or when the amount of urine is reduced due to dehydration, as often happens in the summer. 

Types Of Kidney Stones

Not all calculations are created equal. They differ in size, shape, and composition. Less frequently, they consist of calcium phosphate, uric acid, struvite, and cystine. Their composition is essential because the preventive medical therapy to avoid recurrences or the type of surgical approach may vary according to the characteristics of the stone”.  

The Causes 

“Stone formation is complex and multifactorial. There may be a genetic predisposition, i.e., a family history of kidney stones. However, diet and metabolic processes play a vital role”. 

The Role Of Nutrition

The doctor elaborates on nutrition’s role: “A diet too rich in animal proteins, simple sugars, and salt can favor the formation of stones. On the contrary, a varied diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables (which contain essential elements such as potassium, magnesium, and citrate), legumes, whole grains, and an adequate intake of calcium-containing foods would reduce the likelihood of their onset. It is also essential to drink plenty of water, at least one and a half liters a day, to be increased when it’s hot or if you do physical activity and therefore sweat a lot”. 

From Stones To Renal Colic

The stones usually do not give particular symptoms or vague back pain. The only way to diagnose them is, therefore, a renal ultrasound. This obstruction at the level of the excretory tract (that is, the channels through which urine is eliminated) hinders the normal outflow of urine and increases its pressure by stretching the nerve fibers. Hence renal colic, a problem with a very high incidence in the population, around 15% (it is one of the main reasons for accessing the emergency room),” continue the urologists. 

Symptoms Of Renal Colic

But how does renal colic manifest itself? “Renal colic starts with intense agony in the side impacted by the deterrent and is likewise connected with sickness and retching in one out of two cases. The pain has a colicky trend, i.e., it increases and then decreases in a reasonably cyclical way and correlates to the spasms of the ureter, which tries to make the stone progress. Based on the site of the obstruction, the pain can radiate anteriorly and go as far as the genitals of the affected side, as well as giving symptoms of urinary irritation such as burning or increased frequency of urination. Unlike other abdominal pains, there is no relief from any location with renal colic. 

What To Do In The Event Of Renal Colic

Renal colic is caused by the increase in pressure that urine exerts in the kidney or in the ureter to overcome an obstruction; if you drink during colic, the stone could be pushed downstream, but there is the risk of rupture of the urinary tract and worsening of the symptoms. In the case of colic, it is, therefore, advisable: 

  1. drink in small sips, but only when there is no pain; 
  2. put a hot water bottle on your hip; 
  3. taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory by mouth or by injection into a muscle. 

You need to see a doctor if the pain does not go away or is associated with a fever”.  

Treatments For Stones: Drugs To Dissolve Them And Lasers To Break Them Up

Stone therapy can be medical or surgical, depending on the stone’s location, size, and characteristics. If they are small, i.e., under 7 millimeters, they are generally expelled by themselves or with the help of specific drugs which facilitate and speed up their passage and limit the pain as they move up to the bladder. If they are larger and formed from uric acid, treatment with drugs capable of “dissolving” them is sufficient. 

Laser Surgery For Ureteral Stones

In other cases, however, if they have migrated into the ureter or are composed of calcium oxalate, surgery can be resorted to with minimally invasive techniques, i.e., without “cuts” as it was until a few years ago with so-called open surgery. “For ureteral and kidney stones, semi-inflexible or adaptable ureteroscopy is performed, going through the common pathways (urethra and bladder), with computerized instruments and superb fiber optics, permits the stones to be reached and pounded utilizing laser energy Holmium. The medical clinic stay is generally one night after the medical procedure, and the aggravation is insignificant”, which makes sense to the specialist.

The Intervention For Large Or Multifocal Stones

“For larger or multifocal kidney stones, on the other hand, we use the percutaneous technique, with which the kidney is accessed through a hole made on the side, at the lumbar level, with a diameter of a little finger. This technique, called Mini-PCNL, allows you to treat complex stones in a minimally invasive way. The hospital stay is two nights post-procedure.

Finally, extracorporeal lithotripsy can also be effective for stones with particular site characteristics (renal and ureteral), size and hardness, a non-invasive treatment of stones in which shock waves focused on the stone break and shatter the rock, facilitating its elimination”.

Also Read: 8 Diuretic Herbal Teas To Fight Water Retention

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