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Oxalosis is a condition in which calcium oxalate crystals are deposited in the tissues of the body. These crystals can cause a variety of impairments, depending on where they end up, and prolonged untreated oxalosis will lead to death. This condition is usually preceded by hyperoxaluria, in which oxalate levels in urine are abnormally high. There are treatments available for both of these conditions and treatment should be provided as early as possible to prevent complications. A nephrologist, a doctor who specializes in treating conditions involving the kidneys, usually supervises care for patients with this condition.
People can develop hyperoxaluria for a number of reasons. One reason is a congenital condition which leads to overproduction of oxalate or to reabsorption of oxalate. Another can be excessive consumption of foods which contain oxalic acid, which is broken down by metabolism into oxalate. As oxalate levels in the urine rise, they can create calcium oxalate crystals in the urinary tract.
The crystals cause symptoms like bloody urine, kidney pain, and difficulty urinating. If the stones, as they are also known, are allowed to persist, they will eventually cause damage to the kidneys. As kidney function becomes impaired and the kidneys lose their ability to filter fluids in the body properly, the patient is at risk of developing oxalosis. In oxalosis, the buildup of oxalate enters the blood and it is transported into the bones, muscles, and other areas of the body, including the heart.
People with oxalosis can experience an abnormal heart rhythm, skin ulcers caused by crystals in the blood, and a wide range of other symptoms. Treatments can include dialysis to filter the blood to remove the oxalate and to relieve the failing kidneys. Ultimately, a patient with hyperoxaluria and oxalosis will require a kidney transplant to replace the damaged and failing kidneys. Additional measures can include medications, dietary controls, and hydration to keep the kidneys flushed, as long as the patient is not in kidney failure.
Hyperoxaluria can be diagnosed by testing the urine to determine the oxalate level. Oxalosis can be diagnosed with blood tests which are used to identify the levels of various chemical compounds circulating the blood. Medical imaging studies can also be used to look for signs of crystal deposition in the tissues of the body. All of these diagnostic techniques may be used to determine how severe a patient's condition is, for the purpose of developing an appropriate course of treatment.