WHAT ARE KIDNEY STONES?
Urine contains many dissolved minerals and salts. When the urine has high levels of minerals and salts, it can help to form kidney stones. If you have had one stone, you are at an increased risk of having another kidney stone. Individuals who have developed one kidney stone are at approximately 50% risk for developing another within 5 to 7 years. Because kidney stones increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease, it is important to visit a urologist for regular screening and tests.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF KIDNEY STONES?
Kidney stones come in many different types and colors. There are four main types of stones:
Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone. There are two types of calcium stones: calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate.
Uric acid stones
Having acidic urine increases your risk for uric acid stones. Acidic urine may come from being overweight, chronic diarrhea, type 2 diabetes, gout, and a diet that is high in animal protein and low in fruits and vegetables. This is not a common type of stone.
These stones are related to chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs). Struvite stones are not common.
Cystine is an amino acid that is in certain foods; it is one of the building blocks of protein. When high amounts of cystine are in the urine, it causes cystine stones to form. Cystine stones often start to form in childhood. These are a rare type of stone.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF KIDNEY STONES?
Stones in the kidney often do not cause any symptoms and can go undiagnosed. However, if a stone blocks the flow of urine out of the kidney, it can cause a lot of pain. Other common symptoms of stones include:
- Sharp, cramping pain in the back and side, often moving to the lower abdomen
- A feeling of an intense need to
- Urinating more often or a burning feeling during
- Urine that is dark or red due to
- Nausea and vomiting
- For men, you may feel pain at the tip of the penis.
WHAT CAUSES KIDNEY STONES?
- Low urine volume
- Bowel conditions
- Medical conditions
- Family history
Kidney Stones Treatments
Treatment of your kidney stone depends on the type of stone you have, how bad it is, and the length of time you have had symptoms. There are different treatments to choose from. It is important to talk with your healthcare provider about what is best for you.
Wait for the stone to pass by itself
Often you can simply wait for the stone to pass. Smaller stones are more likely than larger stones to pass on their own.
Certain medications have been shown to improve the chances of passing a kidney stone.
Surgery may be needed to remove a stone from the ureter or kidney if:
- The stone fails to
- Pain is too great to wait for the stone to
- The stone is affecting the kidney
How to Prevent Kidney Stones
Half of all people who get a stone will get another one. Based on the type of stone you have, your current health issues, age, and nutrition needs, your healthcare provider may give you tips to prevent future stones. It is very unlikely you will need to follow every tip below. However, it is important to talk with your health care provider and find out which tips will work best for you.
Check which diet tips your healthcare provider recommends for you:
Drink enough fluids each day
If you are not producing enough urine, your health care provider will recommend you drink at least 3 liters of liquid each day. This equals about 3 quarts (about ten 10-ounce glasses). This is a great way to lower your risk of kidney stones.
Remember to drink more to replace fluids lost when you sweat from exercise or in hot weather. All fluids count toward your fluid intake. But it’s best to drink mostly no-calorie or low-calorie drinks. This may mean limiting sugar-sweetened or alcoholic drinks.
Reduce the amount of salt in your diet
This tip is for people with high sodium intake and high urine calcium or cystine. Sodium can cause both urine calcium and cystine to be too high. Your healthcare provider may advise you to avoid foods that have a lot of salt. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health groups advise not eating more than 2,300 mg of salt per day.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is recommended for all people who form kidney stones. Eating fruits and vegetables gives you potassium, fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, phytate, and citrate, all of which may help keep stones from forming.
Eat foods with low oxalate levels
This recommendation is for patients with high urine oxalate. Eating calcium-rich foods (see next page) with meals can often control your urinary oxalate level. Urinary oxalate is controlled because eating calcium lowers the oxalate level in your body. But if doing that does not control your urine oxalate, you may be asked to eat less of certain high-oxalate foods.
Nearly all plant foods have oxalate, but a few foods contain a lot of it. These include spinach, rhubarb, and almonds. It is usually not necessary to completely stop eating foods that contain oxalate. This needs to be determined individually and depends on why your oxalate levels are high in the first place.
Eat less meat
If you make cystine or calcium oxalate stones and your urine uric acid is high, your health care provider may tell you to eat less animal protein.
If your health care provider thinks your diet is increasing your risk for stones, he or she will tell you to eat less meat, fish, seafood, poultry, pork, lamb, mutton, and game meat than you eat now. This might mean eating these foods once or twice rather than two or three times a day, fewer times during the week, or eating smaller portions when you do eat them. The amount to limit depends on how much you eat now and how much your diet is affecting your uric acid levels.
Eat the recommended amount of calcium
If you take calcium supplements, make sure you aren’t getting too much calcium. On the other hand, make sure you aren’t getting too little calcium either. Talk with your health care provider or dietitian about whether you need supplements. Good sources of calcium to choose from often are those low in salt. Eating calcium-rich foods or beverages with meals every day is a good habit.
There are many non-dairy sources of calcium, such as calcium-fortified non-dairy milk. There are good choices, especially if you avoid dairy.
MEDICATIONS TO PREVENT KIDNEY STONES
Changing your diet and increasing fluids may not be enough to stop stones from forming.
Your health care provider may give you medications to take to help prevent stones from forming.
Check which medication your health care provider recommends for you:
It can lower urine calcium by helping the kidney take calcium out of the urine and put it back in the blood.
It makes the urine less acidic or more alkaline (basic). This helps prevent cystine and uric acid stones. It also raises the citrate level in the urine, helping to prevent calcium stones.
It not only lowers the level of uric acid in the blood but also in the urine, so it may also be prescribed to help prevent calcium and uric acid stones.
Acetohydroxamic acid (AHA)
It is for patients who produce struvite or infection stones. These stones form because of repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs). AHA makes the urine unfavorable for struvite stones to form.
Cystine-binding thiol drugs
They are used only for patients who form cystine They are often used when other measures fail, such as raising fluid intake, reducing salt intake, or using potassium citrate.
Vitamin supplements should be used carefully, as some can increase your risk of forming kidney stones. Your health care provider and a dietitian may be good sources of information about over-the-counter nutritional supplements.
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