Kidney stones are a painful urinary problem that can affect both men and women. There is no one cause when it comes to kidney stones and how they present looks different across patients.
Because kidney stones have a few different causes, there are different schools of thought regarding risk of kidney stones and prevention. Read on to learn more about calcium oxalate stones, how to prevent them, who is more at risk, and what to do if you suspect you are suffering from uric acid stones.
What is a Kidney Stone?
A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms from crystallization of excreted substances in the urine. The stone may remain in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. A small stone may pass all of the way out of the body, but a larger stone can get stuck in the bladder or the urethra. This may block the flow of urine and cause great pain. A kidney stone may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl, and some are as big as golf balls. Approximately 80 percent of all kidney stones are less than two centimeters in width. They may be smooth or jagged, and are usually yellow or brown in color.
Are Kidney Stones Painful?
Many stones cause sudden and severe pain, blood in the urine and infection. Other stones may cause nausea or frequent, burning urination.
Though painful, according to the Mayo Clinic “stones usually cause no permanent damage if they're recognized in a timely fashion. Depending on your situation, you may need nothing more than to take pain medication and drink lots of water to pass a kidney stone. In other instances — for example, if stones become lodged in the urinary tract, are associated with a urinary infection or cause complications — surgery may be needed.”1
How Can I Avoid Kidney Stones?
Many foods and beverages are linked to the development of kidney stones. To prevent a case of kidney stones, it’s a good idea for those with a predisposition to them to limit these foods or to avoid them altogether. Some key things to avoid for kidney stone prevention include:
- Sodium. Excess salt is especially prevalent in processed foods (it’s always a good idea to shop the “outer aisles” in the grocery store). Excess sodium can also sneak up on you in lunch meat, condiments, and foods with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
- Foods with oxalate. Even though many healthy foods are oxalate-rich, these foods can certainly contribute to calcium oxalate stones. Limit your intake of spinach, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, soy, chocolate, coffee, nuts, and beets.
- Animal protein. We all need protein in our diet, but too much animal protein can contribute to kidney stones. The obvious culprits are beef, pork, poultry, and even fish.
- Vitamin C supplementation. Many patients believe vitamin C can help prevent the common cold and take supplements regularly. Too much vitamin C can contribute to uric acid stones, so it’s best to avoid these if you’re predisposed to kidney stones.
In addition to avoiding certain foods, which can be a radical lifestyle change for many, there are also things you can add into your diet. There are also, of course, treatments for kidney stones if you are suffering from them currently and need relief.
Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water helps your urinary tract overall and thus, helps with the prevention of stones. If drinking your recommended daily allowance of water is tough, it’s good to know that both lemonade and orange juice contain citrate, which helps actively prevent stone formation.
The more calcium you eat, the better, as this is another technique to ward off kidney stones. Try adding dairy and other calcium-rich foods. Be careful, however; the extra calcium must come from your diet, and not supplements. Taking calcium supplements can actually contribute to the development of calcium oxalate stones.
You may have to speak with your doctor about certain medications that you’re on, as some medications and drug classes contribute to stones. Chemotherapy drugs, anticonvulsants, decongestants, diuretics, and steroids may all contribute.
You can also talk to your doctor about certain medications that help prevent stone formation in the first place. If avoidance and lifestyle changes aren’t working, and you still are experiencing kidney stones, there are other pharmacological options.
Who Is More Likely to Get Them?
Genetics play a strong role in kidney stone formation, and researchers suggest that up to 40 percent of people who suffer from kidney stones have a first-degree relative who also has kidney stones. This can be due to a lack of citrate or too little calcium.
Those who are obese or even overweight are also more likely to suffer from kidney stones. Also, those who have diabetes have been known to have higher incidences of kidney stone formation. To reduce this risk, diabetic management is essential as well as trying to keep your body mass index (BMI) within the normal range.
Patients who suffer from gout already have too much uric acid in their system. While gout can cause pain in areas such as the feet, it also gives patients a predisposition to kidney stone formation.
Lastly, those who have had intestinal surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, are more at risk, as well as those who have frequent kidney or urinary tract conditions, or kidney disease.
If you need more information about kidney stones or kidney stone treatments or would like to be seen by a physician, book an appointment today at Mississippi Urology Clinic. We have six separate locations in order to meet all of your urology needs.