Kidney Stones are on the Rise

In the past, medical textbooks described the typical person unlucky enough to develop a kidney stone as a middle-aged, obese man who eats an unhealthy diet and doesn’t take enough fluids. A new study has found not only that the incidence of kidney stones is going up, but that they are also developing in people not considered high-risk in the past, including children and women.

Why Stones?

Kidney stones develop when certain chemicals in the urine, such as calcium or uric acid, form crystals. Risk factors for stone formation include:

  • Diet, including high intake of animal protein, sodium, and sugar, as well as low intake of fluids
  • Certain conditions, such as gout, diabetes, and obesity
  • Some medications, including calcium supplements
  • Family history and genetics – kidney stones can run in families, although the specific contributions of shared genes versus shared environments and diets are uncertain.

Do stones matter?

Occasionally, kidney stones are discovered incidentally and pass on their own, never causing symptoms or needing treatment. But, when they become stuck somewhere, they can cause pain or blocked urine flow. They can become lodged anywhere in the urinary system, including the kidney, the ureters (the narrow tubes connecting each kidney to the bladder), the bladder, or the urethra (the passageway between the bladder and the outside world). As you might have heard, “passing a kidney stone” can be agonizingly painful – that’s usually when it’s become stuck in a ureter.

In addition to pain and urinary problems, kidney stones can also cause bleeding and kidney damage. They can increase the risk of a urinary tract infection and have even been linked to cardiovascular disease.

What’s a person to do?

If you have symptoms of kidney stones, see your doctor or report directly to an emergency room. The most common symptoms are waves of pain in the back or lower abdomen, pain with urination, or blood in the urine.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with a kidney stone, it’s important to figure out why it happened and take steps to avoid recurrence. See your doctor to discuss dietary measures and medications to take.

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