Fitness Facts: The causes of kidney stones
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
According to CNN Health, one of the top 10 Google searches for 2018 was, “What causes kidney stones?”
Well, since many have asked, I will review the common causes along with signs and symptoms of kidney stones.
Kidney stones are a solid piece of crystalline mineral material that forms in the kidney from substances in the urine. This piece of material can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl.
The medical term for a kidney stone is nephrolithiasis.
One in every 20 people develops kidney stones at some time in their life. It is approximately a 12 percent risk for men and 7 percent risk for women in the United States.
Although the disease can occur at any age, they develop mostly in persons age 20-49, with peak incidence in people age 35-45 years old. An initial attack after age 50 is uncommon. Patients who ultimately develop recurrent stones usually first develop stones in their 20s or 30s.
Kidney stones in children are rare, however. Over the past 25 years the incident has increased by 6-10 percent annually.
Kidney stones form when there is a decrease in urine volume or an excess of stone-forming substances in the urine.
Dehydration is a common risk factor for the development of kidney stones.
Other risk factors can be:
- Certain medical conditions, such as gout, inflammatory bowel disease and hyperparathyroidism
- Diets that are too high in oxalate, protein or calcium
- Hypercalciuria (increased calcium in the urine) is the most common abnormality in kidney stone formation. This means an abnormal amount of calcium is in your urine. It can be caused by excess dietary calcium and/or a dysfunction causing overactive calcium absorption in the body. It also may be caused by a kidney dysfunction where the kidneys do not filter the calcium out of the urine properly.
- Atkins diet
- Hormonal changes
- Kidney and urinary tract infections
- Taking an excess amount (greater than 2 grams per day) of Vitamin C
- Certain medications such as sulfa drugs, overuse of antacids containing magnesium silicate, guaifenesin and other antibiotics such as cephalexin, ciprofloxacin and nitrofurantoin
- Genetics also may play a role as well. Nephrolithiasis often runs in families and has been proved to have common gene studies.
Symptoms of a kidney stone are a sudden onset of excruciating, cramping pain in your low back and/or side, groin or abdomen. Changes in body position often do not relieve the pain. The pain typically waxes and wanes in severity. It also may be so severe it is accompanied by nausea and vomiting. If infection is present there may be fever and chills.
Often, the pain is described as the worst of your life. Kidney stones also can cause blood in the urine, difficulty urinating, urinary urgency or, in men, testicular pain.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to go to an emergency room or primary care doctor to help diagnose the condition with a CT scan, ultrasound or abdominal X-ray known as KUB (kidney, urine and bladder).
Most kidney stones will pass on their own, and successful treatments have been developed to remove larger stones or stones that do not pass. But people who have had a kidney stone remain at risk for future stones throughout their lives.
Prevention is always the key. The biggest risk factor is low fluid intake and dehydration. This is just one more reason to get in those 8-10 glasses of water per day!