March 10, 2022 marks the World Kidney Day. In commemoration of this health awareness movement, you may like to find out more about kidney function and its most common disorder, kidney stones. Also known as urolithiasis, kidney stones is an illness which can lead to Chronic Kidney Disease. There has been an increase among Malaysians, from 9.07% in 2011 to 15.5% in 2018. As such, it is paramount that we understand how kidneys are important in maintaining our daily health and best practices to keep our kidneys healthy.
How do our kidneys function?
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdominal wall. Their main functions include the elimination of waste products through urine, control of blood pressure and assistance in the production of red blood cells.
How can we manage kidney stones?
Kidney stones are rock-like masses that form inside of the kidneys. A kidney stone can cause very bad pain and can block the flow of urine. The stone usually leaves your body (passes) through your urine. If these stones are big and cannot pass out, you may need to consult a doctor to extract the stone.
If these stones are small, there is a high possibility that they can pass naturally during urination. You will need to drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow. This will help you pass the stone.
If advised by your doctor, change the foods you eat (your diet). This may include limiting how much salt (sodium) you eat. Eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce the amount of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs in your diet. It is important to follow instructions from your doctor about eating or drinking restrictions.
If the stones are passed during urination, you will need to collect your urine samples as told by your doctor. It is normal to collect your urine for 24 hours after a stone comes out. Urine collection will normally continue for eight to 12 weeks after a stone comes out. Strain your urine every time you urinate, for as long as instructed. Use the strainer recommended by your doctor. Do not discard the stone. Keep it so that it can be tested by your doctor.
Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor. Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor as you may need follow-up tests.
How can we prevent kidney stones?
To prevent kidney stones, you will need to drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow. This is the best way to prevent kidney stones. Avoid certain foods as told by your doctor. You may be told to eat less protein. It is also vital to maintain a healthy weight.
Immediately contact your doctor if you have pain that gets worse or does not get better with medicine. Fever, chills and inability to urinate are also indicators to seek professional help immediately.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.
Edvardsson VO et al: Hereditary causes of kidney stones and chronic kidney disease. Pediatr Nephrol. 28(10):1923-42, 2013
Taylor EN et al: Obesity, weight gain, and the risk of kidney stones. JAMA. 293(4):455-62, 2005
Meschi T et al: Lifestyle recommendations to reduce the risk of kidney stones. Urol Clin North Am. 38(3):313-20, 2011
National Action Plan for Healthy Kidneys: Medium Term Strategic Plan to Reduce the Burden of Chronic Kidney Disease in Malaysia (2018-2025), Ministry of Health Malaysia: 2018.
Pearle MS et al: Medical management of kidney stones: AUA guideline. J Urol. 192(2):316-24, 2014
Websites that might be helpful:
Patient Support Group - National Kidney Foundation
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