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MAIN Arrow to DiseaseDiseases & Conditions Arrow to Kidney StonesKidney Stones

Summer - The Season for Kidney Stones



To help prevent kidney stones,
pay attention to the signals
your body is giving you
during the summer!



The long, hot days of summer bring people out of doors to play in the sun. Most people think about vacations, sandy beaches, barbecues and pool parties. You probably don't think about kidney stones—but perhaps you should.

Kidney stones are more prevalent in the summer since they are linked to water intake. Those high temperatures that make swimming at the beach so much fun tend to make the body lose more water than normal.

Many people don't drink enough fluids to compensate for the warmer temperatures or they drink fluids that work against the body's need for fluids—such as beer, colas and coffee.

Andrew Sambell, M.D., a urologist on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie, says there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of kidney stones and stay healthier in the heat.

  • Drink enough water. He recommends at least four to eight glasses a day, and double that in hot weather. Stay away from those ice cold beers and other alcoholic concoctions - drinks that tend to make you lose more water.

  • Go easy on meat. A diet high in animal protein increases your risk of kidney stones. Dr. Sambell recommends eating a vegetarian diet two days a week or cutting your meat intake by 30 percent. Try substituting a fresh green salad for a heavier meat dish - and enjoy the added benefit of keeping the kitchen cooler!

  • Shake the salt habit. Most salt in our diets comes from prepared foods, not salt we add at the table. Dr. Sambell notes that most fast food is high in salt. If you're eating fast food more than twice a week, you're getting a lot of salt in your diet. Cut down on the chips at your next barbecue and snack on watermelon or other juicy fruits that add fluid that your body needs.

  • Cut down on caffeine. If you drink mostly colas, coffee or iced tea, try to switch to decaf at least some of the time. Caffeine is a diuretic which can leave you dehydrated even though you think you are taking in plenty of liquids.

  • Buy some lemons. Lemons are high in citrate, which acts as a kidney stone inhibitor. Slice them up and put them in your water or tea. This may make your water more tasty if you don't normally like to drink plain water. Why not mix up a batch of lemonade to cool off on a hot summer day?

In some cases, drinking more water may not prevent kidney stones from forming. There are a couple of uncontrollable factors that can increase your odds of kidney stones, including recurrent urinary tract infections, certain medical conditions and a family history.

There also are some genetic risk factors that can increase your likelihood of getting kidney stones. Even in these cases, though, drinking plenty of water may help avoid problems.

If, in spite of your efforts, you still get a kidney stone, it will probably pass on its own. “Most stones of 4 millimeters or less will pass,” Dr. Sambell says. “Anything larger than 6 millimeters won't pass on its own.”

But a large stone no longer necessarily means surgery. There's a treatment that's been around for 20 years, called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) that uses sound waves to crush the stone into small particles that can pass on their own. There are also minimally invasive surgical techniques that doctors can use to remove kidney stones. Dr. Sambell says that open surgery is now necessary only in one to two percent of people with kidney stones.

People with recurrent kidney stones should have their risk factors evaluated by a doctor, since multiple stones could lead to a complication.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, kidney stones often do not cause any symptoms. Usually, the first symptom of a kidney stone is extreme pain, which occurs when a stone acutely blocks the flow of urine. The pain often begins suddenly when a stone moves in the urinary tract, causing irritation or blockage.

Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur. Later, pain may spread to the groin.

If the kidney stone is too large to pass easily, pain continues as the muscles in the wall of the tiny ureter try to squeeze the stone along into the bladder. As a stone grows or moves, blood may appear in the urine. As the stone moves down the ureter closer to the bladder, you may feel the need to urinate more often or feel a burning sensation during urination.

If fever and chills accompany any of these symptoms, you may have developed an infection or other complication. In this case, you should contact a doctor immediately.



More about kidney stones around the Web:

Kidney Stone symptoms - WebMD

5 steps for preventing kidney stones - Harvard Health


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