February 15, 2022 2:54 pm
What to Know About Preventing Kidney Stones
Every year, half a million Americans end up in the emergency room with symptoms related to kidney stones. They’re very common, but also preventable in many cases. So, what’s the secret about how to prevent kidney stones?
Let’s first break down what kidney stones are. When your kidneys function optimally, they remove waste products from your blood, creating urine as a byproduct. But sometimes, there’s too much waste in your blood or your kidneys don’t create enough urine to remove that waste.
When that occurs, tiny crystals form, made up of the chemicals found in urine, such as calcium oxalate or uric acid.
These are kidney stones, and while they may start tiny, they don’t always stay that way. A kidney stone attracts more waste and continues to grow until it passes from the body.
What to Expect If You Have a Kidney Stone
Once a kidney stone forms, it does one of two things—it hangs out in the kidney or travels through the urinary tract and out of the body. Tiny kidney stones may pass from the body without any discomfort, but larger stones can cause discomfort and other symptoms, including pain while urinating, blood in the urine, nausea and vomiting, fever, chills, urine that has an odor or looks cloudy, and intestinal pain in the abdomen or lower back.
If you’re experiencing any of those symptoms, talk with your primary care provider, who can investigate your symptoms and determine their underlying cause. If he or she suspects you have a kidney stone, an imaging scan like an ultrasound will be used to confirm the presence of a stone and determine its size and placement.
Treatment for a kidney stone will depend on several factors, including the size of the stone and the severity of your symptoms. In many cases, you’ll be advised to simply wait for the kidney stone to pass through the body. Medication may be prescribed to help you handle the pain during this process and to help the stone pass more easily.
Your provider may recommend surgery if a kidney stone is large, if it fails to exit the body within four to six weeks or if it is blocking the normal function of the kidneys.
How to Prevent Kidney Stones
The saying that “the best medicine is prevention” is true when it comes to kidney stones.
Fortunately, you can prevent many kidney stones by making changes to your lifestyle habits, including:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Kidney stones are more likely to form when you’re dehydrated, which makes urine more highly concentrated with waste products. The National Institutes of Health recommends aiming for six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
- Eat your liquids, too. Don’t love water? That’s OK. You can still increase your fluid intake! Fill your plate with water-rich fruits and veggies, like berries, tomatoes, melon, cucumber, lettuce and celery.
- Reduce your sodium intake. Consuming too much salt increases your risk of kidney stones. Putting down the saltshaker is a good place to begin, but you also need to pay careful attention to the sodium in processed and prepared foods.
- Watch your calcium intake. You need calcium for strong bones, but you can get too much of it fairly easily, particularly if you take a supplement. Talk with your medical provider about how much you need, and try to get your calcium from food.
If you’ve previously had a kidney stone, you’re at risk for another. Depending on the type of kidney stone you had, your medical provider may recommend that you limit the amount of meat or foods containing oxalate, such as spinach or almonds, in your diet.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center