Summer is here! It’s finally time to get outdoors, explore and be active. But amidst all the fun and sun, lurks a serious danger: kidney stones.
As the temperature rises outside, so does our risk of developing kidney stones. Each year more than half a million Americans end up in the emergency room due to kidney stone problems. Find out why summertime increases the kidney blues and how you and your loved ones can avoid them!
What is a Kidney Stone?
A kidney stone is a solid object made from various “crystal-forming” minerals and substances in urine. Normally, urine consists of fluid with various waste dissolved in it. However, when your urine contains more waste than the fluid can dilute, crystals begin to form.
Common Types of Kidney Stones
- Calcium: This is the most common type of kidney stone, created when calcium combines with another mineral (like oxalate or phosphate) in the urine. Inadequate fluid intake, high doses of vitamin D and several metabolic conditions could contribute to their formation.
- Uric Acid: This is another common type of kidney stone which can form when a person doesn’t drink enough fluids, or when fluids are lost. They’re commonly found in individuals who are on an excessively high protein diet, are obese or suffer from gout.
- Struvite: This type of kidney stone is usually associated with upper urinary tract infections. These stones can become very large in size and, if left untreated, can cause chronic infection, kidney damage, or even death.
- Cystine: This rare type of kidney stone is an inherited disorder of an amino acid called cystine. An excess of cystine in the urine leads to the formation of cystine stones. Often, patients affected are young and may have recurring stones through adulthood.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
The size of kidney stones can vary from extremely small, such as a grain of sand, to as large as a pebble. The larger the stone, the more apparent the symptoms may be. The most common symptoms are:
- Severe pain on either side of your lower back
- More vague pain or stomach ache that doesn't go away
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
Summertime and Kidney Stones
The warmer months bring on the hot, dry weather that can increase the chance of kidney stones. The risk of developing a kidney stone increases with age - however, people between 20-40 years old are more prone to summer kidney stones. Additionally, men are at a heightened risk - a 19% chance compared to 9% for women.
The primary reason for summertime kidney stones is due to dehydration. Most of us are outside in the warmer months more often than other seasons throughout the year. Extra exertion may increase our mercury level, which results in more sweat being produced. Without proper hydration, bodily fluids can become more concentrated with dietary minerals that could fixate into stones.
How to Prevent Kidney Stones
Preventing kidney stones comes with proper nutrition and hydration. Drinking extra water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. It may also help to drink some citrus beverages, like lemonade and orange juice, since the citrate in these beverages helps prevent stone formation.
The best ways for you and your loved ones to avoid getting a kidney stone are:
- Drink a lot of water
- Reduce salt in your diet
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a normal weight
Every person's water requirement is different, depending on your system and activity level, so a simple way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine. Darker urine is more concentrated with waste products, so your urine should appear very light yellow to clear, if you’re well hydrated.
Don’t Wait, Take Action!
Are you or a loved one experiencing kidney problems? Don’t wait until it is too late - Greene County Medical Center is here to help. Schedule an appointment with our urologist Dr. Richard Sazama today!