6 Common Questions About Kidney Stones

Kid­ney stones are one of those med­ical con­di­tions that you may hear about but don’t ful­ly under­stand how they may affect you until you are expe­ri­enc­ing them your­self. They are so painful that some peo­ple even com­pare pass­ing a kid­ney stone to the pain of childbirth.

Below are five answers to com­mon­ly asked ques­tions about kid­ney stones.

1. How com­mon are kid­ney stones?

Kid­ney stones are more com­mon than we think. In the Unit­ed States alone, one out of every 10 peo­ple will devel­op kid­ney stones dur­ing their life­time. Data shows that the preva­lence of kid­ney stones has increased from 3 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in the 1970s to 5 per­cent in the 1990s and con­tin­ues to grow.

2. What are the risk fac­tors for kid­ney stones?

Cer­tain jobs and lifestyles can increase the like­li­hood of devel­op­ing kid­ney stones. Exam­ples of occu­pa­tions asso­ci­at­ed with high risk for kid­ney stones include office-based jobs, con­struc­tion jobs, dri­vers, health care work­ers, and peo­ple who have lim­it­ed access to water and bath­rooms dur­ing the work­day. Lifestyle fac­tors asso­ci­at­ed with a high risk for kid­ney stones include inac­tiv­i­ty, obe­si­ty, hyper­ten­sion, dia­betes, gas­tric bypass patients, and alcoholics.

Kid­ney stones are more com­mon in men, Cau­casians and over­weight and obese peo­ple. Peo­ple with kid­ney stones may also have under­ly­ing genet­ic or meta­bol­ic caus­es for devel­op­ing kid­ney stones.

3. How does a kid­ney stone occur?

A kid­ney stone forms when mate­ri­als such as cal­ci­um, oxalate or uric acid are at high lev­els in the urine. Stones can also form if these sub­stances are at nor­mal lev­els but the amount of urine made each day is low. The mate­ri­als form crys­tals, which become weight­ed in the kid­ney and grad­u­al­ly increase in size, form­ing a kid­ney stone.

4. How can I pre­vent kid­ney stones?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is noth­ing that will guar­an­tee that you will nev­er devel­op a kid­ney stone, but there are things you can do to low­er your risk. 

The best pre­ven­tive step is to make sure you are drink­ing enough flu­ids each day. 

Try to stick to water or tea. Adjust­ing your diet to reduce sodi­um intake and ani­mal pro­teins as well as eat­ing few­er foods high in oxalates like spinach and nuts is help­ful. Some recent research also sug­gests that the DASH diet, which is high in fruits and veg­gies and low in dairy and ani­mal pro­tein, may effec­tive­ly decrease the risk of kid­ney stones.

5. How do I know I have a kid­ney stone?

The most com­mon symp­tom of pass­ing a kid­ney stone is pain; oth­er symp­toms include hema­turia (blood in the urine), pass­ing grav­el, nau­sea, vom­it­ing, pain with uri­na­tion, and an urgent need to urinate.

Many patients with kid­ney stones have no symp­toms, but that does­n’t make the stones benign. Kid­ney stones can cause wors­en­ing renal func­tion and per­haps even cause per­ma­nent dam­age lead­ing to chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease, which could require dialysis.

6. How do doc­tors treat kid­ney stones?

Your urol­o­gist sur­geon” and nephrol­o­gist kid­ney doc­tor” work togeth­er to diag­nose kid­ney stones with imag­ing, blood and urine tests. Togeth­er they devel­op a strat­e­gy to remove the stones if nec­es­sary, and more impor­tant­ly, get to the root caus­es of your kid­ney stones. Many stones will pass on their own, but oth­er treat­ments or surgery may occa­sion­al­ly be required.

If you sus­pect you have a kid­ney stone, sched­ule with your pri­ma­ry care provider or walk into one of our Imme­di­ate Care Cen­ters.

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