STONES, WHAT ARE THEY,AND WHY DOES THE BODY MAKE THEM?
By Dr Alison Kamffer
The human body is normally well balanced and everything flows naturally, but at times the flow is interrupted by.. what? A stone! What are these stones, why does our body form them, and what can we do to avoid them?
Stones, or in medical terms calculi (from the Latin calculus, a small stone used for counting) form when the concentration of a dissolved substance exceeds a certain limit and so the substance comes out of solution. This can happen in many body organs, some well-known, some less so! It may be due to an underlying abnormal excess of the mineral, e.g. with elevated levels of calcium (hypercalcaemia) that may cause kidney stones, dietary factors for gallstones, or due to local conditions at the site in question that promote their formation, e.g. Local bacterial action (in kidney stones) or slower fluid flow rates, a possible explanation of the majority of salivary duct calculi occurring in the submandibular salivary gland.
Calculi in the urinary system are called urinary calculi and include kidney stones (also called renal calculi or nephroliths – from the Greek for stone lithos) and bladder stones (also called vesical calculi or cystoliths). They can have several compositions, including calcium, oxalate and urate or they may be mixed.
Calculi of the gallbladder and bile ducts are called gallstones and are primarily developed from bile salts and cholesterol derivatives.
Calculi in the salivary glands are called salivary calculi (sialoliths).
Calculi in the tonsils are called tonsillar calculi (tonsilloliths).
Enteroliths are a type of calculus found in the intestines of animals (mostly ruminants) and humans, and may be composed of inorganic or organic constituents. Bezoars are lumps of indigestible material in the stomach and/or intestines, most commonly consisting of hair (in which case they are also known as hairballs). A bezoar may form the nidus of an enterolith.
Stones can cause disease by several mechanisms: Irritation of nearby tissues, causing pain, swelling, and inflammation, or alternatively they may cause obstruction of an opening or duct, interfering with normal flow and disrupting the function of the organ in question. This can also predispose to infection.
Over the next weeks we will look more closely at different stones, starting with the most common, gall stones.
This article was written by SureSlim's Dr Ali.