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Kidney stones are becoming more common: study

Keep hydrated and monitor your sodium intake to reduce your chances of the developing the painful condition.
Ouch. Photo: ISTOCK

More and more Americans are being stricken with kidney stones, a new study suggests. 

Research published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings looked at more than 10,000 cases of kidney stones in Olmsted County, Minnesota between 1984 and 2012, finding that incidences increased four-fold for women and two-fold for men during that almost three-decade period. The greatest increases were among women ages 18 to 39.  

Lead investigator Dr. Andrew Rule noted that the uptick could be due to the fact that diagnostic technology has improved, with doctors identifying the condition with greater accuracy using CT scans. "We are now diagnosing symptomatic kidney stones that previously would have gone undiagnosed because they would not have been detected,” he explained. 

The extremely painful condition, which affects roughly 10 percent of Americans, occurs when “stones” form from mineral and calcium salt deposits inside the kidneys. Sometimes they pass on their own without much discomfort, but in other instances, cause a great deal of pain as they move through the kidney or get stuck in the urinary tract, which can lead to infection. Symptoms include pain in the lower back and abdomen, nausea, fever, increased and painful urination. 

Doctors can’t pinpoint what exactly causes the condition, but they do know that genetics factors in, as does dehydration, obesity, diets excessively high in sodium or protein, and certain medical conditions such as urinary tract infections (UTIs). It’s also more common in the Caucasian population. Staying hydrated (around eight glasses a day is recommended, although a portion of that comes through food intake, particularly fruits and vegetables) and monitoring your salt intake can help decrease your chances of developing the condition.

And if you’re experiencing severe pain in your side, abdomen or lower back, blood in your urine, nausea, or chills, definitely seek medical attention immediately.