Emergency

Summer: A Hot Time for Kidney Stones

Summertime means beaches, pools, and fun in the sun. But with all that heat comes an unexpected risk—kidney stones. Warm weather brings with it a warning. You’re more likely to suffer a kidney stone during the summer than any other time of year. To avoid the increased chance of kidney stones, follow our advice and always consult with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group doctor.

What are kidney stones?

While it might seem unusual to think of stones forming inside your body, that’s exactly what happens when someone has kidney stones. Kidney stones can be extremely tiny, as small as a grain of sand, or sometimes as large as a golf ball. There are four types, calcium, struvite, uric acid and cystine stones. All four types can cause a great deal of pain before they pass through the body.

What causes kidney stones?

The body forms kidney stones by crystallizing one of these substances along with waste particles. While most bodies can regulate and absorb things like calcium and uric acid, especially with the help of anti-crystallization chemicals in urine, people predisposed to kidney stones often still suffer from this painful condition.

Some people are more likely to get kidney stones than others. For instance, if you don’t drink enough water, or if you opt for sugary sodas instead of water, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk for kidney stones. For this reason, more people develop kidney stones in the summer, when the heat makes keeping hydrated a challenge. Other factors include:

  • A family history of kidney stones
  • A diet low in fiber and high in salt and protein
  • Lack of exercise
  • Taking certain medicines
  • Being a man, as men develop kidney stones more often
  • Being between the ages of 20 and 70
  • Having suffered kidney stones in the past
  • Obesity

If you’ve had a kidney stone in the past, it’s especially essential to work to prevent future kidney stones. About 15 percent of people who suffer from kidney stones will experience another stone within a year.

How can you prevent kidney stones?

The most important way to prevent kidney stones, especially during the summer, is to increase your water intake. Try to drink between 10 and 12 glasses of water every day. At the same time, decrease or eliminate your soda consumption, opting for water every time you want a soda. Be conscious of your animal protein intake and try to not eat more than 12 ounces of meat a day. Perhaps the trickiest part of this preventive regimen is calcium. Approximately 80 percent of kidney stones are deposits of calcium oxalate. If you currently have or have had calcium stones, talk to your doctor about how much calcium you should consume. Too much or too little calcium can prompt a kidney stone.

How do you treat kidney stones?

Most kidney stones pass through you without complications. It can take between a single day and a few weeks for a kidney stone to pass after you notice symptoms. Although kidney stones can feel horrible, most of the time they cause no other issues. Occasionally, the stones are too large to pass. Doctors treat these stones with one of three methods: shock waves or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscope or tunnel surgery. The shock waves methods send shockwaves through your body, shattering the stone into little bits that pass more easily. The ureteroscope sends a tiny camera up the urethra, capturing and taking out the stone with a small cage. Lastly, tunnel surgery involves the surgeon making a tunnel from your back through your skin to the kidney, and removing the stone.

While kidney stones sound unnerving and definitely cause pain, you can take strides to prevent them with simple steps, like drinking plenty of water. Next time you head for the great outdoors, choose a bottle of water (or two!) over a soda and know that you’re protecting your body. CHI St. Luke’s Health emergency rooms are always open to be there for you when minutes matter.

Sources:
WSJ - Summertime, and Risk Grows for Kidney Stones
Health Tip: Are You at Risk for Kidney Stones?
Kidney Stones

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