, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 239-243
Date: 14 Mar 2006

The increased risk of urinary stone disease in betel quid chewers

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The chewing of betel quid is a common practice in many countries of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia. The quid consists of a preparation of areca nut, betel leaf and calcium hydroxide “lime” paste (“chuna”). For the first time, we present a study that links its use to urinary stone disease. Eight patients (seven male and one female) who presented to our Stone Unit with recurrent urinary stones were included in the study. All were from the Indian subcontinent and were found to regularly chew betel. The patients underwent metabolic screening including blood, random urine and 24-h urine tests, quantitative chemical analysis of their calculi (where possible) and each completed a 7-day Diet Diary on his/her free, home diet. The study demonstrated a high incidence of hypercalciuria, a tendency to pass an alkaline urine and low urinary citrate excretion among the patients. Together these urinary risk factors increase the probability of developing both calcium phosphate-containing and calcium oxalate-containing stones. In support of this hypothesis, the patients were found to form stones consisting mainly of calcium phosphate but mixed with calcium oxalate. It is concluded that the use of calcium hydroxide “chuna” in the betel quid is the major contributor to the cause of urinary stones in its users. Moreover, the development of urinary lithiasis in such patients may be a precursor to milk-alkali syndrome in those individuals whose chewing habit is more extensive than in the patients in this study and who do not seek to decrease their habit over the long term.