If you’ve ever been plagued by a kidney stone, surely, you’ll never forget the excruciating pain that accompanies its passing. Kidney stones, which afflict millions of people each year, occur when minerals in the urine crystallize and form small pebbles that can cause severe pain as they pass through the urinary tract.
If you’ve already experienced one kidney stone, you’re at very high risk of suffering from another soon. Fortunately, you can take some preventative actions to avoid living with constant paranoia.
1. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is the most effective way to prevent the occurrence of kidney stones. We recommend at least two to three liters each day. Citrus drinks, like lemonade or orange juice, may also help prevent the formation of stones.
A study, published recently in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggests that exercising lightly each week may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones by up to 31 percent. The intensity of the exercise does not appear to have an effect, so even as much as a long walk every other day could be very beneficial.
3. Watch your diet
Kidney stones form when certain substances—including calcium, oxalate, and phosphorous—become highly concentrated in the urine. If you’ve already had a kidney stone, you can easily alter your diet depending on what kind of stone you had. Avoid a high protein diet, minimize salt intake, and increase your consumption of citrus drinks. While some believe cranberry juice plays a role in kidney stone prevention, there is little evidence to support that claim and some studies report that the high level of oxalate in cranberries may actually increase one’s risk of developing kidney stones. However, every person is unique, so talk to your doctor about planning a healthy diet to suit your individual needs.
4. Ask your doctor for prescription medicine
If these measures don’t help protect you from kidney stones, ask your physician whether a prescription medication might be right for you. Certain types of stones can be prevented through medication.
5. Avoid the “one treatment fits all” approach
Many people make the mistake of basing their dietary approaches solely on the composition of the stones they produce. The number one culprit is calcium. Most people who suffer from calcium stones either produce normal amounts of calcium in their urine, or their kidneys produce abnormal amounts of calcium independent of their dietary intake of calcium. In fact, restricting calcium can increase the risk of osteoporosis and even increase the risk of calcium stone formation in certain cases. Of course, there is no one medication or supplement that works for all kidney stones.
Following these five measures may reduce your risk of suffering from a kidney stone, but they aren’t foolproof, and you may still develop one despite taking the proper precautions. Many kidney stones will pass on their own, but occasionally, they can be large enough to block the flow of urine or even damage important tissues. If you’re worried you might be suffering from a large kidney stone, or any other kind of kidney obstruction, get a CT scan to determine the cause of your pain. To learn more about kidney health, visit this page or speak with your doctor.
Dr. Scott Miller is the leading provider in Atlanta of Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery and founder of LapaRoboticSurgery. Visit his website at www.laparoboticsurgery.com.