Kidney stones develop when substances in urine turn into crystals. However, other factors also play a role in the development of these painful stones, including genetic makeup and lifestyle factors such as diet and lack of exercise. In some instances, kidney stones are large enough to require surgery, though many pass through the urinary tract on their own.
There is no consensus on how diet contributes to kidney stones, but there is evidence that certain diets, specifically low fiber-high protein, may make people more susceptible to developing the stones. People who have had multiple occurrences of kidney stones may benefit from reducing their meat intake and foods that contain oxalates, which appear to trigger the stones, as well. Furthermore, research shows a link between fish, pork, beef, and poultry and the incidence of uric acid kidney stones.
Dehydration is one of the best-known potential causes of kidney stones. People who do not drink six to eight glasses of fluid each day put themselves at greater risk. All fluids are not equal, however, and some, such as caffeinated beverages, have a mild diuretic effect, which means that they cause the need to urinate. Choose filtered water as your main beverage throughout the day.
Preliminary medical research suggests that genetic factors may increase the chance of developing kidney stones. People with a family history of the stones are at a higher risk of developing them. High calcium levels in the urine, which can be genetic, raises the risk of kidney stones. Some rare genetic diseases also seem to be a contributing factor.
Some researchers believe that the risk of kidney stones increases depending on where an individual lives. For example, studies show that kidney stone problems are more common in the southern United States. This geographical imbalance appears to stem from differences in climate. In the warmer climates, people are more likely to become dehydrated, one risk factor for kidney stones.
Differences between men and women may affect the type of kidney stones that form. Women are much more likely than men to develop the struvite variety of kidney stone, which often form following long-lasting urinary tract infections. UTIs are more common among women than men.
Kidney stones may be related to other health problems, including, not surprisingly, kidney disease. Crohn's disease, diabetes, and UTIs may also increase the risk of kidney stones. Additionally, individuals with HIV have a higher chance because certain anti-HIV medications used in their treatment can crystallize inside the drainage system of the kidneys, causing kidney stones.
Some antibiotics increase the risk of kidney stones. Of course, the pros of the medication usually outweigh the cons, and a patient should always follow their prescriptions after discussing medical history with their doctor. People using acetylsalicylic acid to prevent heart attacks may also be at a higher risk. Those with a history of kidney stones should discuss the use of this over-the-counter and prescription medication with their doctors.
Some patients develop kidney stones following intestinal surgeries like bowel resection. As a result, these individuals must deal with both the pain of the procedure itself and the growth and passing of the stones. This risk is rare, however, and only occurs in a small number of cases. Information on these risks should be provided to all patients before any intestinal surgery.
Although research does not suggest a lack of exercise leads directly to kidney stones, there could be a connection. Some people develop the stones following required bed rest during recovery. There is also evidence that even moderate exercise can decrease a person's risk of kidney stones. When the kidney stones are already there, research suggests exercise can help move stones along naturally.
Research reveals that people who develop kidney stones before the age of 25 are more likely to get them again later in life and may be more susceptible to other disorders as well. The body becomes prone to calcium buildup and kidney stones after it has experienced an initial episode.
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