Debunking myths about kidney stones

If you feel a sharp pain in your back or side, it may be the initial warning sign of a kidney stone.

Kidney stones are very common – every year one million people in the United States are treated for one. But there is still much confusion about what they are and how you get one.

Dr. Michael Lipkin, assistant professor of urology at Duke University, is raising awareness about kidney stones and how they can be avoided. He has heard many myths, one being that avoiding calcium makes kidney stones less likely to occur.

"Avoiding calcium is detrimental to kidney stone recurrence,” said Lipkin.

To reduce the risk of kidney stones, Lipkin recommends 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium which amounts to just around three dairy servings a day. He also tells his patients who have already had a kidney stone to drink 100 oz of fluids a day to prevent future stones.

Jennifer Miller is one of those patients. She has already had two kidney stones which needed to be surgically removed. During her ordeals she heard a lot of misinformation.

"There's so many myths that I found out that aren't true,” said Miller.

For instance, many believe that the extra minerals in hard water actually cause kidney stones.

False. Research shows that hard water has little to no impact on the risk for kidney stones.

Lipkin says the trouble comes with cola.

"In my practice I do tell patients to try to avoid dark colas,” said Lipkin.

Many dark soda drinks contain phosphoric acid which could have a link to higher risks of kidney stones.

However, citrus sodas like Sprite, diet orange soda or even Mountain Dew can help prevent the formation of stones. But Lipkin says that patients should always drink plenty of water too.

Kidney stones are also more common in Caucasians and men get them more often than women. However, the number of women getting kidney stones has been on the rise.

And, if you have already had a stone, you are much more likely to develop another one within your lifetime.

REPORT #1993

BACKGROUND: Kidney stones (renal lithiasis) are small, hard deposits that form inside the kidneys. The stones are made of mineral and acid salts. Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract - from your kidneys to your bladder. Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together. (SOURCE:

SYMPTOMS: A kidney stone may not cause symptoms until it moves around within the kidney or passes into the ureter. At that point, these signs and symptoms may occur:

* Pain on urination
* Pink, red or brown urine
* Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
* Nausea and vomiting
* Persistent urge to urinate
* Fever and chills if an infection is present

CAUSES: Kidney stones form when urine contains more crystal-forming substances - such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid - than the fluid in urine can dilute. At the same time, urine may lack substances that keep crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form. (SOURCE:

KIDNEY STONES AND KIDS: No exact information about the incidence of kidney stones in children is available, but many kidney specialists report seeing more children with this condition in recent years. While kidney stones are more common in adults, they do occur in infants, children, and teenagers from all races and ethnicities. To prevent kidney stones, health care providers and their patients must understand what is causing the stones to form. Especially in children with suspected metabolic abnormalities or with recurrent stones, a 24-hour urine collection is obtained to measure daily urine volume and to determine if any underlying mineral abnormality is making a child more likely to form stones. Based on the analysis of the collected urine, the treatment can be individualized to address a metabolic problem. In all circumstances, children should drink plenty of fluids to keep the urine diluted and flush away substances that could form kidney stones. Urine should be almost clear. (SOURCE:

TREATMENT: Passing kidney stones can be quite painful, but the stones usually cause no permanent damage. Depending on your situation, you may need nothing more than to take pain medication and drink lots of water to pass a kidney stone. In other instances, surgery may be needed. Your doctor may recommend preventive treatment to reduce your risk of recurrent kidney stones if you're at increased risk of developing them again. (SOURCE:

? For More Information, Contact:

Michael Lipkin, MD
Assistant Professor of Urology
Duke University Medical Center

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