The human body is a wonder. With its many processes, and the mere fact that we all have one, it’s a marvel and a true testament to whatever or whomever created it. What’s even more amazing is the number of weird things that can happen within the body. From chimeras to the fact that right-handed people have been known to live longer than left-handed people, the human body, with all its quirks, is an incredible thing. Our bodies have the ability to create their own ‘stones,’ and here are five body stones that might be found in your body right now.
Our ears not only give us the ability to hear the sounds of the world, they also aid in balance. Human ears have small stones in them called otoconia. Found in the inner ear and super small, averaging about 10 microns (you won’t be able to see them with the naked eye), otoconia are a mix of calcium carbonate (limestone) and a protein matrix. Displacement of otoconia in the inner ear can lead to issues with dizziness, especially Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).
It’s likely we’ve all had a sore throat at some point in our lives, and it’s even more likely we asked a parent or guardian to see if our tonsils were inflamed or swollen. But have you ever looked at your tonsils when you’re not sick? If you look at them, and you see patches of white, it’s likely you could have tonsil stones. These stones, also referred to as tonsilolliths, are the accumulation of bacteria and food debris in the throat that get stuck in the pockets of your tonsils. If you have them, it’s likely you won’t feel them; but if you’re prone to sore throats, post-nasal drip, or have constant bad breath, you may be harboring some tonsil stones. They are not hard to remove; some people use a toothbrush, others gargle salt water, and some have them extracted (or their tonsils removed) if they’re really bad.
The gallbladder helps with digesting food. It stores bile, secreting it when food enters the small intestines. The bile is produced by the liver and it’s made up of different substances, of which include cholesterol and bilirubin. Sometimes, these substances stick together and form stones, resulting in gallstones. There are two main types of gallstones: those caused by cholesterol and those caused by the build-up of bilirubin. Gallstones can be extremely painful and they are usually treated via the removal of the gallbladder. There are medications that can be used, but sometimes the medications take years to actually break down the stones.
Made up of minerals and acid salts, kidney stones are just that: stones in your kidneys. With no definite or single cause, kidney stones form when there is more crystal-forming substances in your pee than your body is able to dilute. There are a number of different types of kidney stones, but the most notable are calcium stones, uric acid stones, and Struvite stones (which are formed when the body has an infection, especially one in the urinary tract). Kidney stones are generally accompanied by a lot of pain, discomfort, nausea, vomiting and sometimes the inability to pass urine. These stones are not fun.
Another stone that can be found in the mouth, salivary gland stones form in the salivary glands or ducts of the mouth. The main culprit for these stones is calcium; but, of course, the exact cause of salivary gland stones is not known. If the stone gets large enough, it can cause a blockage in the gland or duct and cause pain as saliva backs up into the salivary gland. The best way to avoid these is to practice good oral health care and get lots of water. Should you have one, sometimes sucking on a lemon can help dislodge it; or if it’s large, a doctor might have to make a small incision and remove it for you.
Hooray for the human body! Now excuse me while I go check to see if I have any tonsil stones.