Kidney Stones

Can medical cannabis help with the symptoms of kidney stones? Find out more below. 

Kidney stones are hard, crystalline deposits that form inside the kidneys. They can be painful and may cause urinary tract problems if they block urine flow. In this article, we will discuss kidney stones’ causes, symptoms, and prevalence.

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are hard, solid deposits of minerals and salts inside the kidneys. The stones can vary in size and shape, from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. They can also be smooth or jagged and may be composed of different materials such as calcium, uric acid, and cystine.

What causes Kidney Stones?

Several factors can contribute to the formation of kidney stones, including:

  1. Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can lead to concentrated urine, which can cause minerals and salts to crystallize and form stones.
  2. Genetics: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing kidney stones.
  3. Diet: Eating a diet high in protein, salt, and sugar and low in fiber can increase the risk of kidney stone formation.
  4. Medical conditions: Certain conditions, such as gout, hyperparathyroidism, and urinary tract infections, can increase the risk of kidney stones.
  5. Medications: Some medications, such as diuretics and calcium-containing antacids, can increase the risk of kidney stone formation.

Are there Signs & Symptoms?

Kidney stones are fairly common. According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in ten people will have a kidney stone. They are more common in men than women and are most commonly found in people between 30 and 50.

There are several signs and symptoms that a person may experience if they have kidney stones, including:

  • Severe pain in the back or side: The pain can be sharp, sudden, and may come in waves.
  • Painful urination: The pain can be felt when urinating, and the urine may be cloudy or foul-smelling.
  • Blood in the urine: The urine may appear pink or red due to the presence of blood.
  • Nausea and vomiting: The pain and discomfort can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Frequent urination: The person may need to urinate more often than usual.
  • It’s important to note that not everyone with kidney stones will experience symptoms, and some stones may pass without causing any pain or discomfort.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

If you suspect that you have kidney stones, you should seek medical attention. Your doctor will likely conduct a physical examination and order diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include the following:

  • Urinalysis: A urine sample will be analyzed for the presence of blood, crystals, and other substances.
  • Imaging tests: X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans may be used to visualize the stones and determine their size and location.

The treatment of kidney stones depends on their size, location, and composition, as well as the severity of your symptoms. Treatment options may include:

  • Pain relief: Pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be prescribed to manage pain.
  • Drinking plenty of water: Drinking plenty of fluids can help flush out the stones and prevent new ones from forming.
  • Medications: Depending on the type of stone, medications may be prescribed to help dissolve the stones or prevent them from forming.

Kidney stone extraction removes a kidney stone from the urinary tract or the kidney. The extraction method depends on the stone’s size, location, and composition.

Some of the standard methods used for kidney stone extraction include:

  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): ESWL is a non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break up kidney stones into smaller fragments that can be passed out of the body in urine.
  • Ureteroscopy: Ureteroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves passing a thin, flexible scope called a ureteroscope through the urethra and bladder and into the ureter. The scope has a camera and a small tool for removing the stone.
  • Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): PCNL is a surgical procedure that involves making a small incision in the back and inserting a tube to reach the kidney. The surgeon then uses a tool to break up the stone and remove it through the tube.
  • Open Surgery: In rare cases, open surgery may be necessary to remove the stone. This involves making a larger incision in the abdomen or backs to access the kidney or ureter.
  • After the extraction, the patient may require pain medication and antibiotics. They may also be advised to increase their fluid intake to help flush out any remaining stone fragments.

Can medical cannabis help? 

There is limited scientific evidence to support the use of medical marijuana for treating kidney stones and associated symptoms. However, some studies suggest that certain compounds in marijuana, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects that could help alleviate some of the symptoms of kidney stones.

A study published in the Journal of Pain in 2019 found that medical cannabis use was associated with reduced use of prescription pain medications among patients with chronic pain conditions, including kidney stones. However, the study did not specifically investigate the effects of medical cannabis on kidney stones.

Another study published in the Journal of Endourology in 2021 investigated the effects of CBD on ureteric colic, a common symptom of kidney stones. The study found that CBD significantly reduced pain and improved quality of life in patients with ureteric colic.

While these studies suggest that medical marijuana may be beneficial for managing kidney stone symptoms, more research is needed to establish its safety and effectiveness in this context. Additionally, medical marijuana should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider and in compliance with local laws and regulations.

In conclusion, kidney stones are hard, crystalline deposits that form inside the kidneys. They can be caused by dehydration, genetics, diet, medical conditions, and medications. Common symptoms of kidney stones include severe pain in the back or side, painful urination, blood in the urine, nausea and vomiting, and frequent urination. Kidney stones are quite common, affecting one in ten people at some point.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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