20 October 2018
Drinking enough water is essential to maintaining your health and avoiding various complications, including kidney stones. Photo: Reuters
Drinking enough water is essential to maintaining your health and avoiding various complications, including kidney stones. Photo: Reuters

Low water intake increases risk of kidney stones

We’ve often heard the advice that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, but how many of us actually bother to do that? Well, better start taking the advice seriously.

That is because without enough water intake, the chance will be greater that you will develop kidney stones. In Hong Kong, about one in every 11 people suffers from kidney stones.

When there is not enough water in the body, minerals in urine cannot be diluted and excreted. They then form crystals and become kidney stones. Stones can also be caused by obesity, consuming too much-pickled food or food with high oxalate.

Patients may not see obvious symptoms as the sizes and positions of kidney stones vary. Small kidney stones may not cause any symptoms while larger ones may cause painful urination and bloody urine. Also, it can lead to fever, back pain and kidney inflammation.

In order to diagnose and treat kidney stones, doctors first have to use x-ray to scan the patients and then decide the appropriate treatment.

At present, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is the most commonly used method for treating kidney stones.

Generally, it treats kidney stones with a diameter smaller than two centimeters and located in the upper middle of the kidney. This is not an invasive treatment, as it requires no surgeries and leaves no wounds. However, if the kidney stones are larger or harder, multiple treatments would be required.

Besides, patients may consider percutaneous nephrolithotripsy, which is a minimally invasive surgery, during which the doctor will remove kidney stones from a small puncture wound through the skin. The wound will be tiny and patients recover speedily.

As for patients who cannot be treated with the above methods, they can choose ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy, in which the surgeon passes a small lighted tube, through the urethra and bladder into the ureter to the point where the stone is located. Then the stones will be fragmented with a laser.

Laser lithotripsy is a more recent non-invasive surgery and lowers the need for multiple surgeries as the surgery can deal with kidney stones in different locations at once.

Patients still need to be regularly checked after recovery as the chance of kidney stones regrowth is high. They should keep a close eye on their lifestyle and eating habits. To lower the chance of relapse, they should drink more water and consume less pickled food.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 2

Translation by John Chui with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Adventist Health Physician, Urology, Hong Kong Adventist Hospital - Stubbs Road

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