Health Watch -- Kidney Stones

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Modern lifestyles may increase your chances of developing a kidney stone. What can you do to prevent that?

While we know humans have been suffering from kidney stones for a very long time -- judging from stones found in Egyptian mummies -- the way we live now may be making matters worse. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of Americans will develop a kidney stone at some point in their lives, most often between the ages of 20 and 40. These stones, which are made up mostly of calcium and uric acid, can be anywhere from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a golf ball. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones, but the number of women with kidney stones is rising.

What can you do to prevent kidney stones from forming? The easiest thing to do is drink plenty of water. Dr. Orson Moe of UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas says that the water will help dilute or flush out substances that form kidney stones. Some studies have shown that eating too much protein may also be linked to kidney stones, so avoid a diet that's excessively high in protein, especially if you have a history of kidney stones.

Symptoms of a possible kidney stone include extreme, lingering pain in the back or side; blood in the urine; fever or chills; vomiting; cloudy or bad-smelling urine; and burning during urination. If you notice these symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible. There are new treatments that can help get rid of kidney stones with less pain, such as using sound waves to break stones down so they pass more easily.