Preventing kidney stones

January 7, 2009 3:29:29 PM PST
Anyone who's ever had a kidney stone will tell you how painful it can be and this time of year, people are more susceptible to them. There are things you can do to lower your chances of getting one.

Stones can be caused by chemical problems in the blood such as gout and by genetic factors, meaning that the stone problem can run in families. While urologists now have several ways to get rid of them, the best treatment is prevention.

Tom swift has kidney stones. "Last year I had my appendix removed," he said. "They found kidney stones on both sides. I had three on the left and a cluster on the right."

Kidney stones come in all shapes and sizes.

They form in the center of the kidneys and can travel into the urethra between the kidney and the bladder causing severe pain.

"In the Northeast, people have stones in winter, in the dry heat of their apartments and houses, but this is because of a dehydration factor," said Dr. Franklin Lowe with St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital.

Dehydration can also happen in the summer and it's a preventable cause of stones.

Preventing stones is pretty straight forward and it's particularly important for people at high risk. Those who've had stones before and those with a family history of stones.

Drinking plenty of water and avoiding dehydration can prevent stones which form in concentrated, deep yellow urine.

Dr. Lowe adds, "For people who are recurrent stone formers, I recommend that they drink enough water each day so their urine is clear white."

Too many supplement vitamin C pills can increase the risk of stones in people at risk, so avoid them.

Calcium supplements can increase stone formation, so women taking them to prevent weak bones should drink plenty of water. Too much salt in food can increase the risk.

There are some studies that show a diet very low in animal protein can reduce your risk of stones. Women who take calcium supplements can also reduce their risk of stones if they take the supplement pills with meals rather than on an empty stomach.


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