Sun, Sand, and Kidney Stones: How warmer weather can increase your risk of renal stone disease

What are kidney stones?
Calculi, better known as kidney stones, are mineral deposits that originate in the kidney. They start as microscopic particles that join together to form stones in the presence of high levels of particular substances in the urine. Some stones can form in as little as 90 minutes. Physicians refer to this condition as nephrolithiasis, or renal stone disease.

What causes kidney stones?
Kidney stones occur when there are high levels of calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus in the urine. Some diets may increase your chances of developing kidney stones, while other factors may be hereditary. Common factors of kidney stones include family history, recurrent urinary tract infections, blockage of the urinary tract, digestive problems or dehydration.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
The symptoms of kidney stones vary depending on the size of the stone. If the stone is small, you may not feel any pain or discomfort while urinating. If the stone is rather large, you will most likely experience a sharp pain between your ribs and hips that radiates to your groin.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?
In order to properly diagnose kidney stones, you must see your doctor so that he or she can perform a physical exam. To confirm that you do have kidney stones, your doctor may do a blood and/or urine test, a CAT scan, or an Ultrasound. Depending on size, location and pain, a blood test can be done to reveal any issues that lead to kidney stone(s). A urine test can also be performed in order to expose the content of your urine.

How are kidney stones treated?
Treatment for kidney stones depends on their size and what they are made of. Small stones will often pass on their own, but you may require pain medication. Other medications prescribed for small stones will dilate the urethra so the stone will pass naturally. Drinking lots of fluids, especially water, will help move the stone along. If the stone is too big or too painful to pass on its own, your doctor, or a urologist may have to perform surgery to break it into smaller pieces or remove it completely. For a stone located in the lower half of the ureter, an Ureteroscopy may be performed. In this procedure, a small scope is inserted into the bladder and ureter. This allows the urologist to actually look into the ureter, find the stone, and remove it. For stones located above the lower half of the ureter, Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) can be used. ESWL uses shock waves to break a kidney stone into small pieces that can move easily though the urinary tract and pass from the body. If a stone is too large for any of these procedures, surgery is performed in which an incision is made over the kidney, and the stone is removed.

When are kidney stones most common?
As strange as it may sound, there is a “season” for kidney stones. Doctors have found a spike in the number of patients reporting kidney stones during the summer months. Due to warmer weather, the body sweats more, leading to dehydration. When partaking in physical activities, it is important to replenish your body with the water it has lost.  If you do not urinate every few hours, or if your urine is more yellow than it is clear, you are not drinking enough to stay properly hydrated. If you need something with a little flavor, try adding a lemon wedge, fresh fruit, or mint leaves to your water.

How do I prevent kidney stones?
Not only does Premier Medical Group treat kidney stones in house, but they also work with you to prevent stones from forming in the future. Often referred to as the ‘Comprehensive Stone Center’ and the ‘Referral Center for Stones’, Premier offers in house diagnostic imaging services to evaluate the precise type of stone(s) a patient is suffering from all in one visit. Types of stones include:

  • Calcium: These stones are the most common.
  • Uric Acid: This type of kidney stone is more common in men than in women.
  • Struvite: This type of stone is found mostly in women with urinary tract infections.
  • Cystine: Cystine stones are rare. They occur in both men and women who have a genetic disorder called cystinuria.

Once a patient is diagnosed, your doctor will help you create a prevention plan. This plan may include a metabolic work up, diet modification, or medication to prevent future stones.  It is also very important to stay well hydrated especially during the summer months when doing physical activities that result in sweating. How do you know if you’re properly hydrated? Your urine will be clear in color.