It's Kidney Stone Season
Prevention, Treatment, And Relief
Kidney stones are comprised of tiny crystals that form inside the kidney. These solid masses may form one at a time or several may form all at once. Did you know that North Carolina is home to the highest rate of kidney stones in the country? And with the number one cause of kidney stones being dehydration, summer in N.C. is considered primetime kidney stone season. We reached out to Dr. Carmin Kalorin and Dr. Matthew Lyons from WakeMed Urology – which handles more kidney stones than nearly any urology group in the state – to talk all things kidney stones.
What’s in a Stone?
Kidney stones are clusters of crystals that develop when the levels of calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus in the urine get too high. Each of these minerals is normally found in urine and doesn’t cause problems at normal levels; stones can form if your urine contains more of these crystal-forming minerals than the fluid in it can dilute.
What are the Symptoms?
The most common sign of a kidney stone is severe, sudden, sharp pain under the rib cage on the right or left side of the body (where your kidneys are located). Other possible symptoms include nausea, fever, and/or urinary symptoms such as blood in the urine or the urge to go more often. The pain can come on suddenly and potentially disappear just as quickly. This is because the pain occurs only when the stone(s) block the flow of urine to the bladder, and because stones are often small enough to move around, it can come and go.
Tips for Avoiding Kidney Stones
“Once you’ve had a kidney stone, you have a 50% chance of making another stone if you change nothing in your diet or lifestyle,” Dr. Kalorin explains.
BECOME A WATER BOTTLE PERSON. “We see a consistent increase in the number of kidney stone cases every summer, especially once people start spending more time in the heat and aren’t staying as hydrated as they need to,” adds Dr. Lyons.
To stay hydrated enough to prevent kidney stones, you need to drink 80 to 100 ounces of water a day – which isn’t easy to do if you aren’t paying attention and/or don’t have water on hand at all times. That’s why Dr. Lyons also recommends investing in a nice water bottle and carrying it everywhere you go.
DRINK FRESH-SQUEEZED JUICE. Adding fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice to your water every day can increase urinary citrate levels, which can help prevent kidney stones. While it doesn’t work quite as well as the prescribed potassium citrate given to patients with recurring stones, it’s a great natural option for those who prefer to avoid medications or have never had a kidney stone.
FOCUS ON DIET. Dr. Lyons jokes that you should avoid everything that tastes good to prevent kidney stones. In truth, foods that are high in salt and animal protein (i.e. meat, poultry, eggs) can increase your risk of kidney stones. Other foods and drinks to avoid in excess include nuts, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, carbonated drinks, and tea.
If you experience the symptoms of kidney stones, it is recommended that you contact a medical professional. Evaluation and diagnosis may include a combination of imaging studies and a physical exam. If kidney stones are found, he or she can help you determine which treatment option is best for you.
WakeMed Health & Hospitals
The WakeMed Kidney Stone Center is a dedicated, 24-hour hot-line for patients dealing with emergent, acute, or chronic kidney stones. With one call to the “Stone Phone” at 919-350-ROCK (7625), patients can get relief, advice, and access to an expert team and the latest minimally-invasive treatment options. By providing immediate access to care, the Kidney Stone Center means patients don’t have to wait in pain for extended amounts of time. Depending on a patient’s history of kidney stones and symptoms, the Kidney Stone Center can call in prescriptions, arrange same-day appointments with board-certified urologists with WakeMed Urology (five locations), and admit patients to the hospital directly for treatment. To learn more, visit wakemed.org/kidney-stone-center.