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Kidney Stone Causes and Prevention

Kidney stones are one of the most common urologic conditions, says Dr. Aleksandar Blubaum, a urologist at Washington Regional Ozark Urology. Kidney stones are hard deposits made up of minerals and salts found in urine. 

If urine has high levels of minerals and salts, you can develop stones. Kidney stones come in many different types. How to treat them and stop new stones from forming depends on what type of stone you have. According to Dr. Blubaum, calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones.

Kidney stones start small but can grow larger in size. If stones stay in the kidney, where they don't cause problems, you likely won’t even know you have them. However, sometimes kidney stones will move from the kidney into the ureter, which is a tube that drains urine from the kidney to the bladder. If the stone gets stuck in the ureter, it blocks the flow of urine from that kidney and causes pain, Dr. Blubaum says.

Common symptoms include a sharp cramping pain in the back and side that can move to the lower abdomen or groin. The pain often starts suddenly and comes in waves, coming and going as the body tries to get rid of the stone. Your doctor will order imaging studies like x-rays and ultrasounds or CT scans to confirm the presence of a kidney stone.

Treatment depends on the type of stone, how large it is and how long you've had symptoms, Dr. Blubaum says. There are different treatments to choose from. It's important to talk to your urologist about what is best for you.

Proper hydration can help prevent kidney stones. Dr. Blubaum recommends drinking three liters, or about 10 water bottles, per day. Water is the best choice for hydration. Limiting salt and meats such as beef, fish, chicken and pork can help. People prone to kidney stones should also avoid oxalate rich foods like spinach, kale, nuts and chocolate, and be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

It's important to figure out what factors lead to your kidney stones in the first place, Dr. Blubaum says. Urologists can perform tests to determine what is causing your kidney stones and provide you with a strategy to help stop them from coming back.