Does drinking water help renal colic?

   Feeling stomach-ache may be something we all have experienced at least once in our lifetime. While it is true that most of the condition can be considered mild and often goes away on its own, there are certain aches that can signify a more serious condition such as renal colic. Renal colic in many conditions need the proper health services to treat and to alleviate symptoms. Despite this, some people may think drinking water helps renal colic, but does it really help?

   Before answering the drinking water part to help renal colic, you might want to understand a bit more about renal colic first. Renal colic is the pain caused by the stone lodged in part of the urinary tract, often so in the ureter. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra. The urinary tract is what we familiar as how and where the urine is produced and excreted. Do you know that stones can develop any part of the urinary tract? Reasons being why ureter is said to be the common site for urinary stone is the small diameter of the ureter which makes the stone unable to pass on through this structure.

   Hence, when we talk about renal colic, knowing more on the renal calculi or kidney stone can help us understand more on renal colic. Kidney stones are a common condition affecting 10 to 15% of the population. 50% of these people will have recurrent stones within five to seven years after the first presented symptoms if preventative measures are not taken. Over 70% of stones occur in those aged 20 to 50 years old. Those who are at risk for kidney stones are those with obesity, hypertension, family history of family members with kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome and/or diabetes.  It is caused by crystal or crystalline aggregate travelling from the kidney through the urinary system and stuck onto which creates an obstruction to the way urine flows, typically in the ureter. This obstruction will then cause dilation or expansion of a certain part of the kidney which will then lead to renal colic.

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     Renal colic is caused by dilation of the renal pelvis (large cavity collecting urine as it is produced) and ureteral segments. Although the colic or the pain is usually from the obstruction such as the stone in the ureter (ureteral calculus), it may also be due to other problems and disorders such as ureteral spasm after double J stent removal or ureteroscopy. Ureteral calculi are the common cause of the most acute (sudden) and severe level of flank pain.  Pain is often the result of a combination of muscle spasm of the ureteral, increased movement of the ureter and inflammation caused by the stone itself such as renal swelling, edema and irritation.

  Symptoms of renal colic depend on the size and location of which the stone affects the urinary tract. Most common symptom of renal colic is pain between the lower ribs and hip, specifically on the affected side. Pain tends to radiate to the lower abdomen and groin area. Pain comes in waves with a duration of 20 minutes to 1 hour before subsides. This constant pain is due to the stretching of the kidney part due to obstruction. Larger stones often cause severe pain, especially when stuck and block the small tube in the urinary tract. The pain often causes patients unable to find comfortable positions and often writhing or pacing around. Flank pain is more common than abdominal pain. Many patients complain of nausea, vomiting and blood in urine. Some patients may experience difficulty urinating, pain when passing urine and increased urination frequency.

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   Due to the fact that renal colic is considered an emergency due to the pain being intense, doctors often prescribe pain relief and anti-vomiting medication. Some may prescribe intravenous lidocaine to relieve symptoms. Medications such as morphine may be used when other pain relief does not work. To remove the stone, the intervention will depend on the type of stone and size of the stones. This can be from medication such as alkalinizing agents and alpha blockade, to surgery such as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and stent placement.

   Now, does drinking water help renal colic? It may help to relieve certain times. Hydration is said to be the key for relieving pain caused by kidney stones as the water will dilute or flush the crystals. Furthermore, many patients are dehydrated due to low oral intake or vomiting and can benefit from good hydration. However, drinking water to relieve renal colic  may only be for certain stones and small ones. At the very least, we now know that drinking more water not only keeps one hydrated but also helps to prevent crystals from forming stones and causing pain. People who have kidney stones should drink at least 2 litres of water per day but always ask your doctor if you are unsure of this.

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