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Kidney stones: causes, treatment and prevention

Kidney stones are also known as urolithiasis  or  nephrolithiasis. It is caused by the presence of stones  inside the kidneys or urinary tract which are the ureters or bladder. The  kidney stones  are composed of normal components in the urine. However, due to several reasons, the urine components become concentrated and solidified into fragments to form stones. The name of the stone is dependent on where the stones are formed and located (Kidney or bladder). Hence, it can be called either a kidney stone or bladder stone.

CAUSES 

Kidney stones can occur if  the urine is saturated with salts that can likely produce them, or because of the absence of the natural inhibitors of stone formation in the urine. 

Some other factors that causes formation of kidney stones are:

  • Dehydration or a decrease in urinary volume.
  • An rise in the urinary excretion of chemicals that hinders the dissolution of salts in the urine.

SYMPTOMS 

The symptoms that come with kidney stones depend on the size, composition and location of the stones in the urinary system. However, the presence of some stones show no symptoms and may go unnoticed.

Stones that do not cause symptoms can be discovered during a routine microscopic urine test. Contrarily, stones that cause pain are generally diagnosed by the symptoms of renal colic ,  discomfort in the lower back and groin or pain in the genital area, for no apparent reason.

Additionally, the microscopic urine analysis can reveal the presence of blood or pus, as well as small crystals in the urine.

Some of the visible symptoms are:

 1. Nephritic colic : Pain in the lumbar region or lower back that radiates towards the anterior abdomen and towards the genitals; It occurs as a result of  the blockage of the urine outlet from the kidney.

It is a periodic pain that could be associated with  nausea , vomiting , sweating and abdominal bloating .

2.  Hematuria : It occurs as a result of the damage caused by the stone in its passage through the urinary tract. It is characterized by blood in the urine. The blood in the urine ranges from very obvious to not visible at all.

3. Urine infections : Kidney stones could also cause frequent urinary infections or  cystitis .

PREVENTION 

One of the ways to prevent this condition is to avoid  excessive intake of phosphate, calcium, oxalate and purines .

In addition, there are other nutritional measures that can prevent this condition. such as

  •  increasing the intake of fluids , preferably water. Drinking enough water is one of the best ways to prevent kidney stones.
  • It is necessary to follow a low calorie diet with little salt, reducing animal proteins, sugar and alcohol . Chocolate, spinach,  tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, which can increase the risk of kidney stones. Hence, small quantities  should be consumed.

TYPES  OF KIDNEY STONES 

There are different types of stones depending on the composition of the stones. These most common types are:

Kidney stones.

1.Kidney stones formed by calcium oxalate : They are the most common forms of stones. They are made of calcium and organic acid. 

2.Kidney stones  made up of calcium phosphate:This form of kidney stone is mainly composed of calcium phosphate. This type of salt combines calcium and phosphorus .

3. Kidney stones made of  uric acid: Uric acid is a compound formed when the body breaks down substances called purines in the digestive system. These are found in some foods and drinks. Some food substances with high purine content include seafood, sweetened beverages, alcohol and organ meat. 

4. Kidney stones derived from protein breakdown  : These types of stones are the most common in childhood.

TREATMENTS 

95% of stones found in the ureter area of the kidney pass easily in about four weeks, depending on their size and position. 

Stones that could not be evacuated in about months require medical attention. The specialist will determine the most suitable treatment considering some factors, such as the frequency of colic episodes, impact on the urinary tract, etc.

Currently, between 90 and 95 percent of stones can be removed by simple procedures, such as  extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy , which consists of breaking the stones into small fragments that can pass out easily. Furthermore, endoscopic removal of stones by  ureteroscopy  (through the urinary ducts , urethra, bladder, etc.) is also very common.In special circumstances, larger stones causing an obstruction may require surgery to be removed.

CONCLUSION 

Kidney stones could be painful, but predominantly, they can be eliminated from the body without causing any symptom or damage to the body. However,  these stones may reappear  if the cause that led to their appearance is not treated.

In addition, the patient may be at risk of urinary tract infections or kidney damage, in the most severe cases if not treated properly. 

Who do kidney stones affect? Let’s discuss 

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health

The effects of Video games on the brain

The researches done on the effects of video games on the brain is still in infancy and needs to be explored for more facts. Moreover, Playing video games is an increasingly common form of fun and entertainment for many kids, teens, including adults globally. Most committed gamers play video  games on their desktop computers  or consoles. However,  advanced  technology  has created  the  opportunity  for casual gamers, to have access to video  games on their smartphones and tablets during  their free time. 

Video game is an electronic game that involves the use of an input device, which transmits and controls signals into the computer  to produce a visual display for the player. Examples  of such  devices  include keyboard,  mouse, joystick, microphone  etc. A video  display device such as TV, monitor, touch screen etc is required to display the video.

 

 

Forms of Video games

1.Action Video games

It includes fighting, shooting, jumping or climbing games.

2. Survival games

It involves an environment with minimal resources. The player is required to  collect shelter, weapons or food to survive. 

3. Adventure games

This category requires players to solve puzzles by interacting with people or the environment.

4. Sport games 

It includes car racing,  football, wrestling, boxing, volleyball, basketball, hockey games and many  other sport inclined games.

5. Board or card games.

It includes chess, checkers etc.

 

Effect of video games on the brain

Playing video games consistently has both positive and negative effects on the brain in the long run. Some evidence  has shown that  video gaming may cause changes in some regions of the brain.

 

Positive effects of video games on the brain 

1.Boosts memory

It is no more news that memory declines with age. However, studies have shown that video gaming improves memory. In the course of playing video games,  you are exercising a region in the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for converting short term memory  into long term memory.

2. Improves mood

Playing video games helps to improve  your  mood and reduce depression. A research study has shown that the frequent gamers have much larger ventral striatum than those who are casual gamers. The ventral striatum is an area of the brain located at the center, directly behind  and above the ears. ventral striatum is linked to emotional and motivational aspects of behavior. Dopamine  is a chemical messenger used to transmit information between nerve cells in the nervous system. It is  produced in the brain. This chemical messenger is one of the feel good hormones that plays a vital role in improving your mood. It also makes you feel happy and reduces depression. The ventral striatum relies absolutely on dopamine. Larger ventral striatum of frequent gamers,  could mean production of more dopamine in the frequent gamers compared to the casual or non gamers.

3. Increased spatial  awareness and hand-eye co-ordination

study  showed that playing video games frequently, also causes a part of the brain responsible for hand- eye co-ordination and spatial awareness to increase in size.This results in an increase in spatial awareness and hand- eye co-ordination of most of the frequent gamers.

4. Improves brain function

It has been shown that playing video games may improve brain function in older adults. This  could provide protection against dementia and alheziemer disease. 

Negative effects of video games on the brain. 

1. Addiction to video games 

Frequent gaming could  cause addiction eventually. 

Evidence from a study has shown that video gaming could be addictive. The phenomenon of video gaming addiction is known as ” internet gaming disorder “. Video gaming addiction could be as a result  of larger ventral striatum in frequent gamers. The larger ventral striatum results in production of more dopamine in frequent gamers compared to casual or non gamers. The feel good effect of dopamine causes the frequent gamers to chase after the feeling  of playing more video games regularly. Furthermore, over time the brain gets used to the increase in supply  of dopamine, and this prevents you from enjoying anything that is not as stimulating as video gaming. Hence resulting in addiction. Long term addiction could cause obesity and poor academic or work performance .This is due to spending long hours playing video games daily .

2. Social disconnection

Social disconnection is common among frequent gamers. This is because they spend most of their spare time playing games indoors.There is hardly time to connect with people and  build relationships with friends, family and loved ones. Long term isolation could be harmful to your mental health. Additionally, a study carried out on students discovered that individuals who are addicted to video games had lower social skills compared to those who were not.

3. Repetitive stress injuries (RSI)

Video  gaming requires a vigorous repetitive  movement of the hands, fingers, wrist, elbow. The repetitive movement of these body part, may result in inflammation and injury. Hence, repetitive  stress injuries are common among frequent gamers. Commonly seen the addicted gamers that play for long hours regularly. 

Below are some of the repetitive stress injuries that can occur from gaming:

  • Carpal tunnel Syndrome- This is a RSI condition that can be caused by playing video games excessively. Moreover, It occurs when high pressure is applied on the median nerve.The median nerve runs from the forearm to the hand through an area of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. Hence, its name as the carpal tunnel syndrome.The characteristic symptoms are tingling, numbness and weakness of the hand.

 

  • Tennis elbow- It is a type of RSI that could occur by gaming excessively. The medical name is called Lateral  epicondylitis. Moreover, It is caused by strenuous overuse of the muscles and tendons around the elbow region. It is characterized by pain around the elbow area.

 

  • Gamer’s thumbs-  This is a condition caused by inflammation of the tendons that aid movement of the thumb.It is also called De Quervain tenosynovitis. It is a painful condition that occurs as a result of too much gaming or typing.

Some other Physical health conditions that could occur from frequent gaming include:

  • Eye strain
  • Posture problems- The video gamer stays on a spot for a long time. This could result in postural problems in the long run such as curved lower back, back and neck problem, rounded shoulder etc.

 

Conclusion 

Obviously, it is evident that most of the negative effects of video games on the brain is as a result of gaming excessively.

Therefore, moderation is vital in video gaming. This helps to reduce the negative effects of video games on the brain. Additionally, it is necessary to  maintain  a good posture while playing  video games. This helps to prevent postural problems eventually. 

Tips for a good posture during video gaming:

  • The chair used during gaming should allow the  gamers feet rest comfortably on the floor. 
  • The face of the gamer is positioned directly in front of the monitor. This prevents the gamer from looking upwards or downwards during gameplay. Hence reducing headache and neck pain.
  • The backrest of the chair should be at about 90- 135 degree  angle. This keeps the back in an upright position during gaming.
  • The game pad or the controller  should  be positioned in such that the hands are resting on the players laps, with a 90 degree bend at the elbow. This prevents slumping over and pushing up on the shoulders.
  • The monitor distance should never be closer than 20 inches to the gamers face. This prevents eye strain and backward positioning of the neck and head.
  • The gamers should sit with their hip all the way back in the chair, with the thighs flat on the chair and legs bent at a 90 degree angle. This helps to reduce pain and ensures  proper blood flow within the lower extremity. 

References

Virtual Environmental Enrichment through Video Games Improves Hippocampal-Associated Memory.

Gregory D. Clemenson and Craig E.L. Stark

Journal of Neuroscience 9 December 2015, 35 (49) 16116-16125; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2580-15.2015.

 

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