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Nutcracker Syndrome: Hidden Health Risk Thin People Need to Know About

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Everyone desires a slim body. To achieve this, many try to reduce food intake and increase physical activity when they feel they have gained weight. Many also regulate their diet to stay slim. However, being severely underweight is as unhealthy as being obese. Today, we’ll look at a somewhat unfamiliar condition for many, Nutcracker Syndrome, which tends to occur more often in thin people.

What is Nutcracker Syndrome?

Nutcracker Syndrome is named for the shape of the left renal vein when it is compressed between the two arteries, resembling a nut in a nutcracker. This syndrome is known to occur more frequently in thin individuals than in overweight people.

The syndrome is not widely known

Nutcracker Syndrome is a relatively unfamiliar disease and often difficult to diagnose. Coined in 1972, it is currently classified as a rare disease in the U.S.Back then, patients with hematuria were tested for Nutcracker Syndrome by inserting a tube into the groin vein and measuring pressure differences in the renal vein. However, not all patients with these symptoms underwent vascular testing, so many were undiagnosed.

Persistent abdominal pain and hematuria without a cause

If you have unexplained flank pain, hematuria, or proteinuria, you should consider Nutcracker Syndrome. The pressure within the vein increases when the renal vein is compressed between the two arteries. This causes the small blood vessels in the kidney to burst, inducing flank pain. At the same time, the kidney may swell due to stagnant blood flow, leading to proteinuria and hematuria. In women, pelvic pain and painful urination are known to be the main symptoms.

Common in Thin people

Skinny individuals and those with less visceral fat are more vulnerable to Nutcracker Syndrome. The fat between the vessels acts as a cushion between the two arteries. In skinny people, however, the renal vein is easily compressed as there is less visceral fat. It can also occur in people who have lost weight rapidly.

How is it diagnosed?

Nutcracker Syndrome can be diagnosed by identifying compressed vascular area through Doppler ultrasound or CT scan. Usually, the blood flow rate is about 40-50 cm per second, but it often exceeds 100 cm per second in patients with Nutcracker Syndrome. Also, with a Doppler ultrasound, the blood flow rate in the compressed blood vessel is fast, creating a squirting phenomenon.

It’s better to sleep on your left side

While Nutcracker Syndrome is not a severe or life-threatening illness, taking precautions in daily life is advisable to avoid vascular compression. Sleeping on your back can worsen vessel compression. In addition, sleeping on your right side can exert pressure on the liver, so it is better to sleep on your left side. Also, maintaining the same position while working at a desk can exert uniform pressure on the vessels. Thus, regular stretching is advisable.

Does gaining weight cure it?

If the symptoms of Nutcracker Syndrome are not severe, most can be naturally resolved by gaining weight. Nutritional supplementation and weight management can significantly improve symptoms. In severe cases, surgical treatment, such as adjusting the position of the aorta, may be necessary. Meanwhile, only urinary tests are conducted in children under 18, as symptoms can naturally disappear.

When is surgery necessary?

While lifestyle changes can improve symptoms, surgery may sometimes be necessary. If hematuria is severe and anemia persists, or if flank pain worsens despite lifestyle modification, surgery may be required. In such cases, procedures can be conducted to facilitate blood flow, such as inserting a vessel-expanding tube followed by stent insertion or surgical treatment.

Adopting kidney-friendly eating habits

One of the ways to keep your kidneys healthy is to stay hydrated. Water helps dilute waste products removed from the body through the kidneys. Consuming cranberries and blueberries, which contain many antioxidants, can also be helpful. In addition, bananas are rich in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and support kidney function. Since the recovery of kidney function is difficult once it declines, it’s recommended to change your diet if it has not been kidney-friendly so far.

Helpful stretches

Regular exercise involving bending the upper body forward or backward and stretching with hands in the air would benefit. These help to relieve the compressed vessels. Also, thin people should focus on increasing muscle mass and gaining weight to protect the vessels and reduce pressure. One recommended method combines cardio exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling with strength training. In addition, consider seeking advice from a professional who can help you create an exercise program suitable for you.

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