Kidney stones, one of the most painful of the urologic disorders, have beset humans for centuries. Scientists have even found evidence of kidney stones in a 7,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. Unfortunately, kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. Each year, 3 million people visit the health care providers and more than half a million people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems.
A kidney stone is a hard mass developed from crystals that separate from the urine within the urinary tract. Normally, urine contains chemicals that prevent or inhibit the crystals from forming. In some people these inhibitors do not seem to work hence leading to stone formation. If the crystals remain tiny enough, they travel through the urinary tract and pass out of the body in urine without being noticed. Symptoms appear when the stone causes obstruction or sits at a point in the urinary tract causing pressure built up in the kidneys.
Kidney stones may contain various combinations of chemicals. The most common type of stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. These chemicals are part of a person’s normal diet and make up important parts of the body, such as bones and muscles.
When the stone sits in the kidney, it rarely causes problems, but when it falls into the ureter, it acts like a dam. As the kidney continues to function and make urine, pressure builds up behind the stone and causes the kidney to swell. This pressure is what causes the pain of a kidney stone, but it also helps push the stone along the course of the ureter. When the stone enters the bladder, the obstruction in the ureter is relieved and the symptoms of a kidney stone are resolved.
Causes of Kidney or Bladder Stones
While exact cause of kidney stones is not ascertained certain factors which are hereditary or some metabolic disorders precipitate the formation of stones. Some causes are:
- Urinary tract infections, kidney disorders like cystic kidney diseases, and certain metabolic disorders such as hyperparathyroidism are linked to stone formation.
- Hypercalciuria is inherited. A high level of calcium in the body is not absorbed and excess of it passes in urine and causes crystals of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate to form in urinary tract.
- Calcium oxalate stones also form in people who have chronic inflammation of the bowel or who have had an intestinal bypass operation.
- Cystinuria and hyperoxaluria are two other rare, inherited metabolic disorders that often cause kidney stones.
- People taking diuretics (or “water pills”) and those who consume excess calcium-containing antacids increase the amount of calcium in their urine and potentially increase their risk of forming stones.
- Taking excess amounts of vitamins A and D are also associated with higher levels of calcium in the urine.
- A change in the acidity of urine changes the chemical environment of the urine enough to cause crystals to form in bladder.
- Bladder stones also occur when urine pools in the bladder as in a structural abnormality of the bladder, such as blind pouch, where the bladder is not completely emptied and a “stagnant” area is there from where the urine is not completely drained and potential risk of forming stone increases.
- In older men, an enlarged prostrate can encourage the growth of a bladder stone by restricting the proper and full drainage of the bladder.
- A narrowing of the urethra, known as a urethral stricture, also causes the same problems.
Symptoms of Kidney and Bladder Stones
It is not unusual for tiny crystals to form in the urine of healthy people because many of the substances eliminated by the kidneys are only just soluble in water.
Provided these crystals remain small enough, they are flushed out without causing any symptoms or trouble.
- Usually, the first symptom of a kidney stone is extreme pain, which begins suddenly when a stone moves in the urinary tract and blocks the flow of urine.
- Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen.
- Complaints are associated with nausea and vomiting and the pain often spreads or settles in the groins.
- If the stone is too large to pass easily, pain continues as the muscles in the wall of the narrow ureter try to squeeze the stone into the bladder.
- As the stone moves and the body tries to push it out, blood may appear in the urine, making the urine pink and as it moves closer to the bladder, a person feels the need to urinate more often or gets a burning sensation during urination.
- If the bladder stone irritates the mucosa (soft lining) of the bladder, blood may appear in the urine typically appearing towards the end of urination.
- A bladder stone may also cause pain when urinating. If the stone gets stuck at the entrance to the urethra, the jet of urine will suddenly stop in the middle of urinating.
- Other symptoms of a bladder stone include having to pause urine more frequently and repeated urine infections.
It is a misconception that homeopathy is not of much use in acute pain in kidney or bladder stones. We have very precise and strongly indicated medicines to tackle a patient writhing in pain of urinary tract stones
The two stages of homeopathic treatment are:
- Taking care of the acute pain with fast acting medicines like Berberis vulg or Colocynthis.
- Removing the disposition of stone formation with deep acting and constitutional medicines like Lycopodium, Acid Benzoic or Calcarea flour.
- Deciding the frequency and dosage of medicine to be given is the art which comes with experience and dealing with hundreds of cases in a homeopath’s daily routine OPD practice.
- We also have well indicated medicines which correct the metabolic imbalances in the body thus helping in proper absorption of calcium and other nutrients reducing the tendency of stone formation.
Certain Food Precautions to be Taken
People prone to forming calcium oxalate stones are advised to limit or avoid certain foods if their urine contains an excess of oxalate. Some of these food items are Spinach, Beetroot, soyabean, peanuts, okra/ladyfinger, chocolates, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and excessive strong Indian tea.
The patient is also advised to drink lots of water so that the crystals formed are regularly removed in urination.