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Preventing Kidney Stones

kidney stones

Preventing Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are quite common and can affect around 1 out of 5 males and 1 out of 10 females by the time they reach 70 years of age. The good news is that there are treatments available to manage most stones effectively. Additionally, there are steps you can take to stop kidney stones from coming back.

The occurrence of kidney stones is becoming more frequent. In the 1980s, about 3% of the US population had kidney stones, but by 2010, that number increased to 8%.

Kidney stones are not a one-time problem; they can happen again. Up to half of the patients who have had a kidney stone may experience another one within 10 years. Sometimes, having kidney stones can run in families, which means if your relatives had them, you might be more likely to get them too.

Most kidney stones are made of calcium, and many of those calcium stones are calcium oxalate.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

The most common type of kidney stone is calcium oxalate. Eating foods that are high in oxalate can make it more likely for kidney stones to form. Also, if having kidney stones is something your family members have experienced, your risk of getting them is higher too. People with certain digestion problems like Crohn’s disease or those who've had gastric bypass surgery are more likely to get kidney stones because their bodies don't absorb nutrients as well.

Certain diseases that affect how our bodies work can also lead to kidney stones. Conditions like hyperparathyroidism and distal renal tubular acidosis are examples. Even diabetes and obesity can cause a different type of kidney stone made of uric acid.

Studies haven't found evidence that kidney stones are linked to chronic kidney disease, CKD.

Some medications can also lead to kidney stones. For example, Vitamin C, triamterene, and guaifenesin are worth mentioning. Triamterene, which is a common diuretic, might cause problems for some people. It can create tiny crystals in the urine and sometimes lead to kidney problems. 

Certain jobs can increase the chances of kidney stone formation. Occupations like taxi drivers and medical residents, who might not get enough water throughout the day, are at a higher risk.

Because of all this, doctors might want to do some special tests to see what's causing your kidney stones. They might ask you to collect your urine for 24 hours to understand it better. This test is underused, though. Less than 10% of people with kidney stones actually do 

How Can You Prevent Kidney Stones?

A simple way to stop kidney stones is to drink more water. Aim for more than 2 liters of water every day. Try to drink water all day long, even before going to bed.

Be careful about eating foods high in oxalate, like nuts, spinach, berries, cocoa powder, and a sweetener called stevia. You can still enjoy them, but it might be a good idea to eat them along with foods rich in calcium, like dairy and yogurt.

Getting more calcium from food is actually helpful. It can prevent oxalate from turning into stones.

Cutting back on salt in your diet can lower the chances of kidney stones forming. Avoid foods that come in cans, are processed, or are fast foods.

There are medicines that can help too. Some of them, Thiazides, can lower the amount of calcium in your urine and prevent stones from forming. Your doctor will tell you if you need them.

For people with low urine volume, like surgeons and taxi drivers, a medicine called potassium citrate might be really useful. And guess what? It's a good idea for all kinds of kidney stones.

But remember, not all things that have citrate in them will help. Only commercial fruit juice seems to work!

Preventing kidney stones really does work! It can lower the chances of getting them by 80%. It also means you're less likely to need surgery or have to stay in the hospital. In fact, it can save a lot of money – about 3 million dollars for every 1000 patients over a year.


Ghayas Habach, M.D., M.P.H.
Ghayas Habach M.D., M.P.H.

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