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How To Help Prevent Kidney Stones

They may be as small as a grain of sand or, rarely, as large as a golf ball. They may be smooth or jagged. They may pass on their own or require treatment to break them up or surgery to remove them.

They're kidney stones, and according to the National Kidney Foundation, they afflict as many as one in five men and one in ten women in their lifetimes. Indeed, more than half a million people go to the emergency room each year to deal with a kidney stone — which can cause severe pain in the back or side, fever and chills, blood in the urine, and a burning feeling during urination.

"Many people who get kidney stones experience them more than once," notes David T. Chang, M.D., a urologist at Hackensack Meridian Palisades Medical Center. "But there are things you can do to lower your risk of having a kidney stone develop."

Without preventive measures, patients who have already had a kidney stone are more likely to develop another. In fact, more than half of people who form one stone will eventually develop another. Patients who have had two or more stones are advised to have a complete metabolic evaluation to see what is causing their stones.

"Most often, the most effective prevention is a change in diet, such as giving supplements with certain minerals and electrolytes that prevent stone formation and increasing water intake," explains Dr. Chang. "If those measures don’t work, we may prescribe medication for the patient."

Got kidney stones? Here are some steps to take to keep them from coming back.

Eat a Better Diet

You may want to meet with a registered dietitian to see how to implement helpful changes in your diet. Common dietary changes shown to be effective for reducing kidney stone risk include:

Drinking lots of water (generally 6-8 glasses daily)

Eating less animal protein

Limiting your salt intake

Eating fewer foods that are high in a substance called oxalate (achemical that combines with calcium in urine to form the most common type of kidney stone, a calcium oxalate stone). High-oxalate foods include beets, nuts, potatoes, soy products, and spinach.

Lose Weight

Obesity is also known to raise kidney stone risk, so achieving and maintaining a healthy weight may help lower your chance of having another kidney stone.

Take Daily Medication

For some people, diet and weight changes may not be enough. If your doctor tells you that you may need to take medication to reduce your risk of kidney stones, you'll likely need to take it every day. The type of medication depends on what your kidney stones are made of.

Citrate salts are medications that bind to the calcium in your urine and prevent calcium crystals from forming.

Thiazide diuretics reduce the amount of calcium entering the urine from the bloodstream and promote urine production, which can help prevent calcium stones.

Allopurinol is used to prevent uric acid stones. It lowers uric acid levels in the urine. This drug is also used to prevent gout, which some people with uric acid stones are also more prone to having.

Magnesium in dietary supplements binds to oxalate in the urine and can lower the risk of calcium oxalate stones.

The risk of kidney stones is also elevated in people with certain other medical conditions and can run in families. "There's no reason to live with the threat of kidney stones when there are steps you can take to prevent them," says Dr. Chang. "I advise patients who have had kidney stones to see a urologist who is experienced in managing them to tailor a plan of care to reduce the chance they may recur."

Next Steps & Resources:

Learn more about your options for kidney stone care at Hackensack Meridian

To make an appointment with Dr. Chang, call201-520-1919 or find a doctor near you.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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