June is Men’s Health Month, and while both men and women are at risk for kidney stones, men develop kidney stones more frequently than women – about three times more frequently.
Kidney stones are hard, crystal-like deposits that form inside the kidneys. They can occur when the urine contains high amounts of salts and minerals – such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid – that become concentrated in the funneling portion of the kidney. Kidney stones can continue to grow in size and “fall out” of the kidneys. If a kidney stone falls out of the kidney, it can obstruct the flow of urine. If urine cannot flow effectively down to the bladder, it begins to back up in the kidney and can become infected or contaminated, which can cause an extreme amount of pain.
If recognized in a timely fashion, kidney stones usually cause no permanent damage. However, if left untreated, kidney stones can cause blood in the urine, recurrent infections and even the loss of renal function. Kidney stones are a common problem with a high rate of recurrence.
While certain factors can put people at a higher risk for developing kidney stones (such as recurrent urinary infections, inflammatory bowel disease or gastric bypass surgery), a large contributor to kidney stones is diet. Diets high in salt and non-dairy protein (especially red meat), or being in a state of chronic dehydration, greatly ups a person’s risk for kidney stone disease.
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 — for example, if stones become lodged in the urinary tract, are associated with a urinary infection, or cause complications — surgery may be needed.
After treating kidney stones, patients are provided dietary and lifestyle options to avoid future stone formation.
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