I Keep Getting Kidney Stones. What's Causing It?

I Keep Getting Kidney Stones. What's Causing It?

Kidney stones affect just under 10% of Americans, including 11% of men and 7% of women. For many people, kidney stones are a once-in-a-lifetime event, but others experience recurrent kidney stones, along with the extremely painful symptoms they can cause.

If you have recurrent kidney stones, there’s no doubt you’d like to find a solution that helps. In this post, Alfred Shtainer, MD, FACS, discusses possible causes of recurrent stones and offers some steps patients at Adult and Pediatric Urology can take to reduce the risk of having stones in the future.

Understanding why kidney stones happen

About the size of a closed fist, your kidneys help filter wastes and extra fluids out of your blood. While most wastes pass out of your body through your urine, some waste products like excess minerals wind up slumping together inside your kidneys and forming hard “stones.”

Very tiny kidney stones can pass through your urine without causing any symptoms. But larger stones can get trapped in your kidneys or ureters (tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder), causing symptoms like:

The severity of your symptoms depends in part on the size of the stone, where it’s caught, and whether or not it’s moving.

Kidney stones are typically composed of crystals made up of one of four substances: calcium oxalate, struvite, uric acid, or cystine. About 80% of kidney stones are made up of calcium products — mostly calcium oxalate.

Why kidney stones recur and how to prevent them

Kidney stones are relatively common, and most people who have them only experience them once or twice. But they can recur, particularly among people who:

They’re also more common among people who have a family history of kidney stones. Knowing your personal risk factors can help you prevent kidney stones in the future. 

Kidney stone prevention

If you have recurrent kidney stones, the first step toward preventing future stones is to schedule a visit with Dr. Shtainer so he can determine why stones are forming. Blood tests, urinalysis, and diagnostic imaging can help, along with a review of your personal and family medical histories.

In addition to recommending treatment when needed, Dr. Shtainer offers tips and lifestyle guidance to help you prevent stones in the future.

Watch your diet

First, watch your sodium intake. Sodium from table salt and other sources increases the risk of developing stones. Read food labels and consider using herbs, spices, and salt substitutes instead of adding salt for flavoring. 

You can potentially reduce the risk of uric acid stones by limiting protein intake or switching to vegetable-based or lean proteins. Finally, even though the most common type of stones are made of calcium oxalate, don’t decrease your calcium consumption. Instead, limit foods high in oxalates, like beets, leafy greens, soy products, and chocolate.

Drink plenty of water

Staying hydrated is extremely important for preventing kidney stones and maintaining kidney health overall. Carrying a water bottle with you helps ensure you drink the amount your body needs to flush waste from your kidneys and prevent stone formation. 

During hot weather or exercise, increase your water intake to make up for fluid lost through sweat. If you don’t like plain water, consider adding a little lemon or lime juice, cucumber, or melon chunks to your water to flavor it.

Schedule additional testing

Underlying medical conditions and diseases, like kidney disease and diabetes, also increase your risk of having recurrent kidney stones. If you have kidney stones, having a kidney function evaluation, blood tests, or other examinations can play an important role in preventing stones from coming back.

Kidney stones aren't just uncomfortable. When they happen more than once, they can be a sign of a more serious problem with your kidneys.

If you have recurrent kidney stones, don’t ignore them. Request an appointment online or over the phone at Adult and Pediatric Urology in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, New York,  today.

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