Welcome To Summer, aka Kidney Stone Season
Along with the many joys of summer come some things we don’t appreciate so much: sunburns, kids who won’t go to bed on time, and kidney stones. The excruciating pain they cause has been compared to that of childbirth.
According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), more than half a million people go to emergency rooms in this country every year. It is estimated that one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives.
Although you can get kidney stones any time of year, summer is the peak season, primarily due to lack of sufficient hydration. So, our doctors at Cohen Medical Associates in Delray Beach want to highlight this increased risk and offer suggestions on how you can avoid this painful condition.
What is a kidney stone?
A kidney stone is a hard object made from chemicals found in urine, which contains various wastes. When there is too much waste in too little liquid, crystals begin to form and attract other elements that harden into a solid object (called “stones”).
The stone’s journey begins in the kidney. It can either remain there or travel down the urinary tract into the ureter. If it’s not small enough to pass with the urine, it can cause a back-up of urine in the kidney, ureter, bladder, or urethra, causing pain, as well as serious complications.
Although many kidney stone attacks are genetically influenced, they can also be seen with other diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, and obesity. The NKF says other possible causes include too much or too little exercise, weight-loss surgery, drinking too little water, or consuming food with too much salt or sugar.
Symptoms of a kidney stone
The symptoms of a kidney stone can mimic those of other diseases and conditions. But in general, typical symptoms of a kidney stone include:
- severe pain on either side of the lower back
- vague pain or stomach pain that doesn’t go away
- blood in the urine
- nausea or vomiting
- fever and chills
- urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
Because these symptoms can be a sign of other serious problems, it’s important to see us if you experience any of them. In addition, a kidney stone that has grown too large to pass through the ureter can not only damage the kidney, but it can also be fatal.
How to avoid kidney stones
The time-honored way to avoid kidney stones is to drink a lot of fluid, at least 64 ounces a day. Adding lemon or lime juice (but not sugar) can help acidify the urine and guard against stone formation.
“Nothing, nothing, trumps fluids,” Dr. Ralph Clayman, a professor of urology at the University of California, Irvine, told CNN.
“If you’re drinking three quarts a day and making two-and-a-half quarts of urine a day, that’s the best way you can protect and defend either against getting a kidney stone or, if you’ve had them, defend against getting them again,” he said.
The NKF also recommends high water intake, especially when you’re engaging in activities that cause heavy perspiration: saunas, hot yoga, or heavy exercise, for example.
The popular belief that consuming dairy products contributes to stone formation turns out to be wrong; in fact, just the opposite is true. Eating or drinking three servings of calcium a day helps lower your risk. Soy and almond milk, however, contain high levels of a compound called oxalate, a known contributor to the formation of kidney stones, so intake should be limited.
The NKF also recommends avoiding such oxalate-rich foods as nuts, seeds, legumes, beets, tea, and chocolate.
Finally, high-sodium consumption can contribute to the formation of stones, so not only should you avoid salt, but also processed foods (which are high in sodium), as well as canned and pickled foods.
If you think you have a kidney stone, see us as soon as possible. We can confirm whether your symptoms signal a kidney stone or something else, and prescribe pain medication and/or alpha blockers that will relax the muscles in the ureter. Most kidney stones eventually pass (usually with severe pain), but large stones may require surgery.