DR. HOOK- Pee gravel: Kidney stones no laughing matter
"Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." As if!
Quite a few people seem to believe their houses are made of Pyrex, so they get out their slings like David going after Goliath. That's why politicians shouldn't have negative campaign ads– it ends up like two nasty high school girls fighting to be Prom Queen. Or people who are up in arms about same-sex marriage don't notice that they're on their 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th, or Elizabeth Taylor's number) marriage with affairs on the side.
So should those with glass kidneys throw stones?
Kidney stones are no laughing matter. Twelve percent of men and five percent of women will develop symptoms from kidney stones by age 70. The stone in the kidney usually isn't what is painful. The misery starts when the kidney spits the stone into the ureter (the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder). Every moment the stone travels down the ureter, the person writhes in pain like Elaine dancing on Seinfeld. The pain waxes and wanes– usually over 20-60 minutes.
The pain can be so severe that nausea and vomiting can result. The pain can start in the flank of the back and travel down to the side of the abdomen and into the inguinal pelvic region. Folks can often tell better than GPS where the stone is. "Doc, the pain started up and back here, and it feels like it's down here right now," they say between gasps.
Blood in the urine is usually present like Peter Gabriel's Red Rain. The blood is irritating and can make the person want to pee more than usual.
Most stones pass soon, but it can take up to a month for bigger stones to come out. (Call them kidney boulders?) Some medicines can make it easier to pee out the stone, but if it gets stuck, a urologist will go in and pull it out.
It's important to identify the stone to see what it's made of, because dietary changes might be able to prevent another stone from forming. So folks passing a stone are asked to urinate in a filter to catch the stone.
Eighty percent are calcium stones, in particular calcium oxalate. Believe it or not, folks with calcium oxalate stones often need to increase their dietary calcium intake. My patients always end up frowning at me like Gary Coleman, "What you talking about, Willis?"
Well, high blood calcium such as caused by hyperparathyroidism can causes stones. But oral calcium causes oxalate to be pooped out. So increasing calcium in the diet will actually lower calcium oxalate stones in the kidneys.
Folks with gout usually have high uric acid levels. Uric acid can be seen as gravel-like sediment in the urine, a bad sign that kidney stones might be forming.
Half of people who pass one kidney stone will do it again within 10 years. Ouch! So changing risk factors is advisable. Hydration is very important to prevent stone formation because the kidneys need fluid to keep filtering well. For example, marathon runners are at risk for kidney stones.
Diabetics and obese people are also at risk for kidney stones, so diet and exercise are good things. High animal protein, high sodium, and high table sugar (there goes dinner for most Americans) increase the risk of stones. And for those who are really into vitamin C, high levels of that otherwise helpful vitamin can cause kidney stones.
Diagnosis and treatment of stones is for another article. I just hope if any readers experience a stone, it will be the Rolling Stones and not the type involving your kidneys.