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The Causes of Kidney Stones and How You Can Prevent Them

Kidney stone pain can be unbearable, making treatment of kidney stones an urgent priority.

Kidney stones are no laughing matter

For anyone who has experienced them, kidney stones are no laughing matter. They are sometimes painful and difficult to pass. Thankfully, knowing the causes and a few preventative steps of kidney stones can drastically reduce your risk of developing stones in the future.

Low Urine Volume

A major risk factor for kidney stones is consistently low urine volume. This may come from dehydration, hard exercise, working or living in a hot climate, or not drinking enough fluids. When urine volume is low, urine is concentrated and dark in color. Concentrated urine means there is less fluid to keep salts dissolved; Increasing fluid intake will dilute the salts and reduce your risk of kidney stones.

Your Regular Diet

Your diet can also affect the chance of forming a stone. One of the more common causes of calcium kidney stones is high levels of calcium in our system – which may be due to the way your body handles calcium; It’s not always due to how much calcium you eat.

Studies have shown that restricting dietary calcium can be bad for bone health and may increase kidney stone risk. Healthcare providers usually do not tell people to limit dietary calcium to lower urine calcium. Instead, your healthcare provider may try to reduce your urine calcium level by decreasing your sodium (salt) intake.

A salty diet is a risk factor for calcium stones because too much salt is passing into your urine, keeping calcium from being reabsorbed from your urine and into your blood. Reducing salt in your diet lowers urine calcium, making it less likely for calcium stones to form.

Because oxalate is a component of the most common type of kidney stone (calcium oxalate), eating foods rich in oxalate can raise your risk of forming these stones.

A diet high in animal protein, such as beef, fish, chicken, and pork, can raise the acid levels in the body and in the urine. High acid levels make it easier for calcium oxalate and uric acid stones to form. The breakdown of meat into uric acid also raises the chance that both calcium and uric acid stones will form.

Medical Conditions

Certain bowel conditions that cause diarrhea (such as Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis) or surgeries (such as gastric bypass surgery) can raise the risk of forming calcium oxalate kidney stones. Diarrhea may result in the loss of large amounts of fluid from the body, lowering urine volume.

Just as it is a factor in many health hazards, obesity is also a risk factor for stones. Obesity may change the acid levels in the urine, leading to stone formation.

Less common medical conditions – such as abnormal growth of one or more of the parathyroid glands – can cause high calcium levels in the blood and urine. Another less common condition called distal renal tubular acidosis (where there is acid build-up in the body) can raise the risk of calcium phosphate kidney stones.

Some rare, inherited disorders can also make certain types of stones more likely. Examples include cystinuria, which is too much of the amino acid cystine in the urine, and primary hyperoxaluria, in which the liver makes too much oxalate.


Some medications, calcium supplements, and vitamin C supplements may increase your risk of forming stones. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider all the medications and supplements you take, as these could affect your risk of stone formation. Do not stop taking any of these unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so.

Family History

The chance of having kidney stones is much higher if you have a family history of stones, such as a parent or sibling.

While some Kidney stones are a result of factors beyond our control, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Stay Hydrated
  • Eat Foods with
  • Low Oxalate Levels
  • Reduce your Salt Intake
  • Don’t Take Unnecessary Supplements
  • Eat Less Meat
  • Exercise Regularly

If you ever have any questions or concerns about your urinary health, visit your urologist! The medical providers at Houston Metro Urology are experienced, professional, and available to help you improve your overall health. Request an appointment online or contact us today!

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