Common causes of kidney stones you need to know

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Kidney stones are a painful and surprisingly common health issue, affecting approximately one in ten people at some point in their lives. These hard deposits of minerals and salts form inside the kidneys and can affect any part of the urinary tract.

Understanding the causes of kidney stones is crucial for prevention and management. This review will explore the common triggers and risk factors for kidney stone formation, presented in straightforward, accessible language.

One of the primary causes of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body. Kidney stones develop when the urine contains more crystal-forming substances — such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid — than the fluid in the urine can dilute.

When the body is dehydrated, urine becomes more concentrated with higher levels of these substances, which can lead to stone formation.

Studies, including those from the Journal of Urology, have consistently shown that people who drink less water and other fluids are at higher risk for kidney stones.

Diet plays a significant role in kidney stone formation. High intake of certain foods can increase the risk of stones.

For instance, a diet high in salt promotes calcium buildup in urine; high oxalate foods, such as spinach, rhubarb, and almonds, can contribute to oxalate stones; and large amounts of animal protein can increase uric acid.

Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology highlighted that diets high in sugar and sodium are linked with an increased risk of certain types of kidney stones.

Another important dietary factor is calcium intake. Interestingly, while calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stones, low calcium diets can actually increase kidney stone risk.

This counterintuitive situation occurs because less dietary calcium means more oxalate is available for absorption in the body, promoting stone formation.

A balanced intake of calcium is recommended, preferably from food sources rather than supplements, as supplements have been linked to higher stone risk in some studies.

Genetics also influences the likelihood of developing kidney stones. Some people are born with a higher susceptibility to stone formation, due to inherited conditions that affect how their bodies process minerals and salts.

Genetic factors can lead to conditions like hyperoxaluria, where there is too much oxalate in the urine, and hypercalciuria, where there is an excess of calcium in the urine. Both conditions significantly raise the risk of stones.

Other health conditions contribute to the formation of kidney stones. For instance, obesity changes the acid levels in the urine, which can lead to stone formation.

Gastrointestinal diseases and surgical procedures such as gastric bypass surgery can alter digestive processes and affect how the body absorbs minerals and water, again increasing the risk of stones.

Medications are also a less known cause of kidney stones. Certain diuretics (commonly called water pills) and calcium-based antacids can increase the risk of stone formation. People taking these medications should be aware of this potential side effect, especially if they have other risk factors.

Preventing kidney stones often involves changes to lifestyle and diet, such as increasing fluid intake to ensure that the urine is diluted and less likely to form stones.

Incorporating a balanced amount of calcium-rich foods, reducing salt, oxalate, and protein intake, and maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce the risk.

In summary, kidney stones are caused by a combination of dietary factors, hydration levels, genetic predisposition, other health conditions, and sometimes medication use.

Awareness and proactive management of these risk factors can help prevent the formation of kidney stones and reduce the incidence of this painful condition.

For those who have had stones before or are at high risk, regular monitoring and consultation with a healthcare provider are essential.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about drug that prevents kidney failure in diabetes, and drinking coffee could help reduce risk of kidney injury.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent recurrence of kidney stones, and common painkillers may harm heart, kidneys and more.

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