Kidney stones (also called nephrolithiasis or renal calculi) affect one in 11 people in the United States. They are more common in men and people who are overweight or who have diabetes. Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys. They usually form when people do not drink enough water and therefore, their urine becomes concentrated, which allows the minerals to stick together and form crystals or what we commonly refer to as stones.
Kidney stones that stay in the kidneys usually do not cause pain. Passing kidney stones, however, can be very painful. People usually get severe pain that starts on one side of their mid-back and wraps around to the front of the belly and toward the groin. The pain can be so severe that some people throw up. In some cases, blood can be seen in the urine. If the kidney stones are small, they can be passed at home with pain medication and by drinking a lot of water to help “push” the stone out. If the stone is too large or gets stuck or infected, you may need surgery.
Talk to your doctor if any of the following holds true:
— your pain is so severe you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position.
— You are throwing up.
— You are unable to keep fluids down.
— You are having fevers and chills.
— You are having blood in the urine.
— You find it difficult to pass urine.
To help prevent stones, make sure you drink 80 oz. (10 cups) of fluids per day. Water is best, but any fluids count. You should decrease the amount of salt in your diet (no more than 2,300 mg per day — one teaspoon). Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and make sure you take in the recommended amount of calcium per day (1,000 to 1,200 mg daily — found in dairy, fish, leafy greens, beans and lentils). Avoid high doses (megadoses) of vitamin C; instead, switch to multivitamins that are low in vitamin C. Other stone prevention strategies depend on what the stone is made out of and may include limiting consumption of meat and eating more low-oxalate foods, like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, corn, lettuce and the like.
One final thing, if you pass the stone, don’t throw it out! Your kidney stone can be analyzed to find out what it is made from, which will then help your doctor tell you specific foods to avoid.
Visit www.urologyhealth.org to learn more about kidney stones and how to prevent them, the Urology Care Foundation is an excellent and trustworthy resource.
This week’s Health Talk was written by Zita Ficko, MD, urologist, Marble Valley Urology at Rutland Regional Medical Center.