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April 27, 2016 | Urology
Kidney stones are a common and even ancient disorder of the urinary tract. Evidence of kidney stones has been found in an Egyptian mummy estimated to be more than 7,000 years old, reports The New York Times. More than 12 percent of American men and 7 percent of women suffer with a kidney stone at some time in their lives.
Not only has this rate has been increasing since the 1970s, urologists are now seeing patients with kidney stones that are still in their 20s and 30s — a significant change from years past in which this disorder was commonly found in people’s 40s or 50s. The rates in women are rising faster than in men, and while once very rare in children, even this age group is now dealing with kidney stones.
Kidney stones are small, hard mineral deposits that form inside your kidneys when your urine is too concentrated and contains more crystal-forming substances than the fluid in your urine can dilute. These substances include uric acid, calcium and oxalate. The tiny crystals stick together and form a stone that may range in size.
Sometimes the urine carries the crystals out of the kidney, and they travel through the urinary tract when they are still small enough to pass easily out of the body without medical intervention. But if the crystal remains inside the kidney and more tiny crystals join with it, eventually a larger stone forms that can get stuck in the ureters — the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Kidney stones have no single cause, and they can affect any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the bladder.
Urologists are now seeing patients with kidney stones that are still in their 20s and 30s—a significant change from years past in which this disorder was commonly found in people’s 40s or 50s.
Kidney stones that remain in the kidney may not cause any pain at all. Once a stone begins to move through the ureters and the urethra, you may experience:
Sudden, severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen, groin or genitals
Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
Frequent and painful urination
Urinating small amounts of urine
Pink, red, or brown urine caused by blood in the urine
Cloudy or bad-smelling urine
Nausea and vomiting
Fever and chills if an infection is present
Pain caused by a kidney stone can shift to a different location and increase and decrease in intensity as it passes through your urinary tract.
Experts agree that the obesity epidemic in the United States is partly to blame for the rise in kidney stones, especially for women. One study cited by The New York times found that “a 35-pound weight gain since early adulthood increased the risk of stone formation by 40 percent in men but by 80 percent in women.
It appears that certain foods can increase the risk for stones in people who have a genetic predisposition or another medical vulnerability such as a metabolic disorder, gout or intestinal bypass surgery. People who eat large amounts of animal protein without adequate fiber and fluid intake may be at higher risk for stones.
A high-sodium diet increases the amount of calcium the kidneys must filter and significantly increases the risk of kidney stones, as does a diet rich in fructose and sucrose (table sugar).
The reduced consumption of dairy products may also contributing to the rise in stones.
Although calcium supplements have been shown to increase the risk of kidney stones, calcium-rich dairy products appear to lower kidney stone risk. Experts speculate, “The reduced consumption of dairy products may also contributing to the rise in stones.”
Similarly, although some citrus fruits and their juices can help prevent kidney stones, people who take vitamin C supplements increase their risk for stones.
Are you concerned that you might have a kidney stone? Revere Health Urology providers specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of pediatric and adult urinary problems in eight easy-to-access Utah locations. We partner with you and your primary care physician to develop an individualized treatment plan based on the latest technology and research.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.