How to Prevent Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are small, hard mineral deposits that accumulate in the kidneys. This can occur when the urine becomes very concentrated (often as a result of dehydration). In high concentrations, the minerals contained within the urine, such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, can crystallize and stick together, forming solid masses, or “stones.”
While kidney stones usually do not cause any permanent damage, they can be extremely painful, particularly as they pass through the ureter between the kidney and the bladder. In fact, kidney stones are believed to be one of the most excruciating conditions that a human being can endure – thought by some to be even worse than childbirth, gunshot and stab wounds, third-degree burns, surgery, and broken bones.
The most common sign of a kidney stone is severe pain that comes in waves and wraps around one side of the body, below the ribs, to the back. If the pain is so severe that you can’t sit still, or is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, or painful urination, you should seek immediate medical attention.
For many people, kidney stones aren’t a one-time thing. Without preventive measures, approximately 50 percent of kidney stone patients experience a second occurrence within seven years. However, the risk of developing recurrent kidney stones can be reduced through lifestyle changes, such as:
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to keep the urine diluted – Most people should produce approximately 2.6 quarts of urine per day. Keep in mind that if you exercise or sweat frequently, or you live in a hot, dry climate, you will need to compensate for reduced urine production by drinking more water. To ensure that you’re drinking enough, check your urine – it should be clear or very light in color. If you’ve experienced a bout of kidney stones, a physician might recommend that you measure your urine output.
- Following a diet that is low in sodium – A high-sodium diet can increase the amount of calcium in your urine. Some experts recommend limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day, or 1,500 mg per day if you’ve previously had kidney stones.
- Limiting your consumption of animal proteins – Eating excessive amounts of red meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood can boost the level of uric acid in your urine. It’s best to limit your daily intake of animal proteins to a heart-healthy portion that is no larger than a deck of playing cards.
- Consuming calcium-rich foods but avoiding calcium supplements – A common misconception is that calcium derived from foods is linked to the formation of kidney stones. Actually, in some people, the opposite is true – a diet that is low in calcium can cause oxalate levels to rise, resulting in kidney stones. However, you should consult with a physician before taking calcium supplements, which have been linked to kidney stones.
At South Tampa Immediate Care, our experienced medical staff can recommend preventive steps to reduce your risk of developing kidney stones, which can be especially important if you’ve experienced them in the past. Our walk-in clinic is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and no appointment is ever necessary to see one of our doctors.