Link between Kidney Stones and Type 2 Diabetes Found

Kidney stones can be painful and debilitating.  Yet more bad news comes with the report that kidney stones can increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by up to 30%.  However, researchers are not sure why these two very different conditions should be linked.

With modern medicine, kidney stones are a nuisance rather than a health hazard, and smaller ones may be passed in the urine with little or no discomfort.  Larger ones can cause pain and other problems, and may even block the urethra so an operation is necessary.  The stones are formed of tiny crystals that can form in the urine from substances including calcium and uric acid if the urine is too concentrated.  A healthy person’s urine contains chemicals that prevent these crystals forming, but older people have less of this chemical.  Some illnesses and infections can cause kidney stones to form, and reactions to some medications have been known to cause them as well.

Once the only cure for kidney stones was an operation – the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys writes of his being “cut for the stone”, a terribly dangerous operation to undergo at that time.  Now drugs can be given to dissolve the stones, or they can even be broken down by sonic treatments.

Kidney stones occur throughout the population, but for some reason are more prevalent in men, and whites are more likely to get them than African Americans.  The likelihood of getting them increases with age, so that men are more likely to get them between 40 and 70.  For women the most likely age is in their 50s; those who have had them once are more likely to suffer from them again.

A new study which followed more than 94,000 adult people from Taiwan over a five-year period found those with kidney stones were up to a third more likely to develop diabetes than those with no kidney stones.  The researchers were not sure why this should be so, but some of the risk factors for diabetes are the same as those for kidney stones: age and obesity.  However, even when these factors were taken into account, the risk of diabetes for people with kidney stones was greater.

Dr Herng-Chin Lin, who led the study atTaipeiMedicalUniversity, said the team felt some bodily processes might trigger both conditions.  They thought high insulin levels – found in the blood of people with impaired glucose tolerance – could encourage kidney stones to form by changing the composition of the urine.  The team found no evidence that the reverse was also true, and that having kidney stones contributed to diabetes in any way.

However, the team admitted that their study was flawed, as it relied on studying the medical records of the 94,000 patients instead of being able to study them directly.  This meant vital information such as lifestyle, eating habits and family medical history were not available to them.

But Dr Lin pointed out that the kidney stones can still serve as a warning and those that have them should adopt healthier lifestyles and diets in order to decrease their chances of getting diabetes.

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