What causes kidney stones (and what to do)

Stone illness has plagued humanity since historic instances. Kidney stones have been recognized in Egyptian mummies. The Hippocratic oath describes their therapy: “I cannot use the knife, not even verily, on victims from stone, however I’ll give place to equivalent to are craftsmen therein.”

Who will get kidney stones and why?

The lifetime threat of kidney stones amongst adults within the US is roughly 9%, and it seems that international warming could also be growing that threat. (Because the local weather warms, human beings usually tend to get dehydrated, which will increase the danger of stone formation.) There are 4 main sorts of kidney stones: calcium oxalate/calcium phosphate, uric acid, struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate), and cystine.

A threat issue for all stones, no matter kind, is dehydration. Anybody who’s liable to kidney stones ought to take note of good hydration. A randomized trial has proven that consuming 2 liters of fluid a day reduces the chance of stone recurrence by about half. The American Urological Affiliation guideline for medical administration of kidney stones recommends that sufferers who kind kidney stones ought to intention to drink greater than 2.5 liters of fluid per day.

Anybody with signs of kidney stones needs to be referred to a urologist. The preliminary analysis will usually embrace blood, urine, and imaging research. Choices about testing, and finally therapy, needs to be made collectively by the doctor and the affected person. Let’s have a look at particular threat components and therapy for every of the foremost stone sorts.

Calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones

Calcium stones are the commonest kind of kidney stones, and could be both calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. As talked about, good hydration is essential to stop calcium stones. It could be stunning, however outcomes of a randomized medical trial present that individuals with calcium kidney stones shouldn’t reduce on dietary calcium. The truth is, they need to eat the really useful every day allowance of calcium (1,000 mg/day for girls youthful than 50 years outdated and males youthful than 70, and 1,200 mg/day for girls over 50 and males over 70). Why? Calcium binds to oxalate within the gut and prevents its absorption via the intestine, so there may be much less within the urine to kind stones. Ideally, calcium ought to come from meals. Speak together with your physician earlier than taking calcium dietary supplements, and growing fluid consumption may be helpful relying on how a lot calcium you’re taking.

Meals excessive in oxalates (nuts, spinach, potatoes, tea, and chocolate) can improve the quantity of oxalate within the urine. Eat these carefully.

Calcium phosphate stones are much less widespread than calcium oxalate stones. Causes embrace hyperparathyroidism (when the physique produces an excessive amount of parathyroid hormone), renal tubular acidosis (a kidney situation that causes a buildup of acid within the physique), and urinary tract infections. It is very important perceive if one in every of these situations is behind the formation of calcium phosphate stones.

Good hydration may help forestall recurrence of calcium stones. As well as, thiazide diuretics equivalent to hydrochlorothiazide may help the kidney take in extra calcium, leaving much less of it within the urine the place it might kind stones. Potassium citrate is one other remedy that may bind to calcium and assist hold calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate within the urine from forming into stones.

Uric acid stones

Most sufferers with uric acid stones don’t have an excessive amount of uric acid. As an alternative their urine is just too acidic. When that occurs, regular ranges of uric acid dissolve into the urine the place it might crystalize into stones. Adjusting the pH of the urine, mostly with the remedy potassium citrate, reduces the danger of uric acid stone formation and may assist dissolve current stones. Sodium bicarbonate will also be used to alkalinize the urine. Some individuals with uric acid stones do produce excessive quantities of uric acid. For these sufferers, consuming much less animal protein may help, as can a drug known as allopurinol.

Struvite stones

Struvite stones are composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate, and kind in alkaline urine. The commonest explanation for struvite stones is a bacterial an infection that raises the urine pH to impartial or alkaline. Acetohydroxamic acid (AHA) can scale back urine pH and ammonia ranges and assist dissolve stones.

Cystine stones (the least widespread kind)

Cystinuria is a genetic situation. It ends in excessive ranges of cystine (an amino acid) within the urine, which then varieties into kidney stones. Most cystine stones could be managed by growing hydration and medicines that change the pH of the urine. If that isn’t sufficient to manage stones, then one other remedy could be added.

The underside line

All kidney stone victims ought to keep in mind the phrase, “Dilution is the answer to the air pollution.” Good hydration is a secure and helpful remedy for all stone formers. That stated, you will need to have an intensive dialogue with a urologist about the correct method to analysis, therapy, and methods to maintain new stones from forming.


Prevalence of Kidney Stones in the USA. European Urology, July 2012.

Local weather-related improve within the prevalence of urolithiasis in the USA. Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences, July 2008.

Urinary quantity, water and recurrences in idiopathic calcium nephrolithiasis: a 5-year randomized potential research. The Journal of Urology, March 1996.

Medical Administration of Kidney Stones: AUA Guideline. American Urological Affiliation, August 2014.

Meta-analysis of randomized trials for medical prevention of calcium oxalate nephrolithiasis. Journal of Endourology, November 1999.

Administration of cystinuria. The Urologic Clinics of North America, August 2007.

Medical Stone Illness Administration, AUA College, final up to date September 2017.

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