In 2009 a Hungarian man named Sando Sarkadi had a kidney stone that was 17cm in diameter, and weighed 2.48lbs, surgically removed from his body. Whether it was more painful than childbirth is anyone’s guess, but there is no doubt that kidney stones can be excruciating, and can leave many grown men rolling around on the bathroom floor.
In doctor-speak the condition is called nephrolithiasis and the name of the severe pain caused by kidney stones is renal colic. Most stones can be passed normally through urination but some can grow to be the size of golf balls, in which case they usually require surgery. The stone develops when excess minerals such as salt, calcium and potassium, which would normally be broken down by the chemicals in urine, bind together in the urinary tract.
The causes of kidney stones are not always obvious, but are often linked to dehydration or urinary tract infections. Simple treatments are often the most effective and include keeping the body hydrated, in order to flush out the stone, or reducing the amount of calcium in the diet.
Kidney stones are more common amongst men than women, and 60% of those who have passed a kidney stone will develop another one within seven years. The easiest way to prevent this is to keep an eye on the colour of your urine. The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.
Gallstones are formed by lumps of cholesterol that get trapped in the gallbladder and cause intense flashes of pain that can last anything from 1-5 hours. It is not known precisely what cause the gallstones to form, but it is suspected that an imbalance in the chemical make-up of bile inside the gallbladder cause excess cholesterol to form and coagulate into small lumps.
Up to 1 in 10 adults in the UK will have gallstones, but most do not display any symptoms. Treatment options for the most serious cases normally involves removal of the gallbladder, a dramatic sounding but relatively routine operation. Human’s can comfortably function without a gall bladder.
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