What Are Kidney Stones and How Can You Avoid Them?

 by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

 Have you ever heard of kidney stones? Hopefully, the case is that you’ve heard of them and never had them, as the image of those tiny stones in your body can be very disturbing. But did you know that kidney stones are quite manageable and preventable?

In this article, we are going to discuss everything involving kidneys stones. You’ll get a better understanding of what they are, the types, the symptoms, causes, and how to prevent them.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. If you believe you have kidney stones, seek medical attention immediately.

What are Kidney Stones?

As per the American Urological Association, up to 12% of Americans are affected by kidney stones, and once you’ve had stones, there is a 50% chance that you might get more in the next 10 years.

Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, is an irregularly-shaped solid mass that can range from the size of a grain of sand to a golf ball.

These stones primarily originate in the kidney, but they can develop anywhere along the urinary tract, like the kidney, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Kidney stones can be made up of different types of crystals, which we’ll discuss next.

Types of Kidney Stones

Below are the various types of kidney stones that can occur in the body.

Calcium

This type of kidney stone is one of the most common types and is often made up of calcium oxalate. By avoiding high-oxalate foods like potato chips, chocolate, and more, you can reduce the risk of developing calcium stones.

Uric Acid

This is the second most common kidney stone that can form and generally occurs in people with conditions such as diabetes, gout, obesity, and other metabolic syndromes.

Struvite

Struvite is mainly found in people with UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) and is due to kidney infections.

Cystine

As per studies, 1 in 7000 people have cystine. It is often formed due to a genetic disorder called cystinuria.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can be painful — and most times excruciatingly painful.

The symptoms occur when the kidney stone moves down the ureter. This can cause pain in the back and abdomen. It is better to keep an eye on signs and symptoms so that you can get timely treatment and avoid unbearable pain.

Here are a few symptoms to be aware of:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in urine
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Urinating in small amounts

Causes of Kidney Stones

As per studies, kidney stones are likely to occur in people who are between 20 to 50 years of age. And family history can also increase the risk of kidney stones.

Studies show that gender may also play an important role. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones as compared to women. Apart from that, there are various other factors that increase the risk, such as:

  • Obesity
  • Dehydration
  • High level of protein or salt
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases

How to Prevent Kidney Stones

The truth is, you can easily prevent kidney stones by making minor changes to your nutritional habits. Here are a few ways:

1.      Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water can help you prevent not just kidney stones but also various other health issues. In case you don’t drink enough water, your urine output will be low, which means it will not be able to dissolve urine salts properly. This may lead to kidney stones.

2.      Include More Calcium-Rich Foods

A lack of calcium-rich food in your diet can lead to the formation of calcium oxalate stones. Plus, low calcium can also increase the risk of osteoporosis. So, try to add more calcium-rich food items like low-fat cheese, low-fat milk, and more.

3.      Reduce Consumption of Sodium

As per Urology Care Foundation, too much salt in urine can prevent calcium from getting reabsorbed from urine to the blood, which causes high calcium and leads to kidney stones. Lowering the consumption of salt can help in preventing kidney stones.

4.      Eat Less Animal Protein

Animal proteins are acidic in nature and may lead to an increase in uric acid, which may cause both calcium and uric acid stones in the kidneys. Therefore, it may be beneficial to limit the consumption of items like beef, fish, pork, and more.

When Should You Visit a Doctor?

In many cases, kidney stones are not so severe and can pass through the body without any treatment. So, if the pain is manageable and there are no other signs like nausea or vomiting, treatment may not be required.

But in case you experience other symptoms like blood in urine, fever, severe pain, difficulty in urinating, and more, it is better to seek medical attention before the condition worsens.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Kidney stones are quite common, and anyone can develop them, but they can be incredibly painful to deal with. However, there are various ways to treat kidney stones. It is recommended to consult a medical professional and get proper treatment to avoid any other health-related issues if you have kidney stones.

Remember to stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet, as it can help in avoiding kidney stones and other health issues.

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