Do kidney stones always cause back pain? Let’s find out

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Kidney stones are a common and painful occurrence among people of all age groups. These are essentially hard deposits, caused as a result of mineral and salt accumulation from urine inside the kidneys. This can affect different parts of the urinary tract – be it the kidneys or the bladder.

There are various signs of kidney stones. If these are not detected in time, they can cause excruciating pain and discomfort. Sometimes, the stones can be passed by increasing fluid intake. But when they may end up getting stuck in the urinary tract or cause more complications, doctors usually suggest surgery.

Urinary tract infections can be common with kidney problems. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Dr Shakir Tabrez, Senior Consultant – Urology, Uro-oncology, Andrology, Transplant and Robotic Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru, busts some common misconceptions about this health issue.

5 myths around kidney stones

1. Myth: Restricting calcium, like avoiding milk in the diet, will prevent kidney stone formation

Fact: Dietary calcium intake at normal levels, is a protective factor against kidney stone formation. Hence, milk or milk product intake,in moderation, is advised. Restricting calcium leads to bone de-mineralisation and increased oxalate absorption resulting in stone formation.

2. Myth: Kidney stones always present with back pain

Fact: Kidney stones inside the kidney are always almost painless, unless they obstruct the passage of urine by blocking the ureter and causing a
swelling of the kidney due to the back pressure. That is when most people complain of severe pain with nausea or vomiting. Occasionally, blood in the urine and burning in the urine are also symptoms.

Also read: 7 lifestyle hacks to maintain healthy kidneys

You won’t always have back pain with kidney stones. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Myth: Barley water and cranberry juice will flush out kidney stones

Fact: Cranberry juice is advised more often in the case of urinary tract infections as an aid to prevent infection. It does not help with stones. There is no specific evidence towards barley water for stone prevention or clearance. Aim to drink at least 2.5 to 3 litres of fluids a day – whatever those fluids may be – to keep the kidneys flushed out and the concentration of stone-forming salts lower. In fact, lemon juice and citrus beverages which contain citrate, which can minimise stone formation, are advised.

4. Myth: Medicines can dissolve most, if not all kidney stones

Fact: In a small percentage of patients, when the stones are composed of uric acid or cystine, medicines can be used to prevent stones and in a lesser number – to dissolve stones. Most stones are formed of calcium oxalate or phosphate and cannot be melted with medication. If small, they can be flushed out and if larger, they would require intervention.

5. Myth: Patients with kidney stones should not eat tomatoes.

Fact: Tomatoes may be advised against, if the potassium levels are high in the blood. Otherwise tomatoes and other seeded vegetables can be consumed in regular quantities. Constant and steady intake of fluids is key to avoid kidney stones.

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