Kidney Stones: The Hotter it Gets the More it Hurts


Kidney Stones: The Hotter it Gets the More it Hurts
Healthy Living - July 29, 2014
William Sturrock, MD

Research released this past month from Children's Hospital in Philadelphia has reported an increase in the number of individuals, including children, developing kidney stones.  Although there are many factors that can contribute to kidney stone formation, the research showed that there was a direct relationship between the average daily temperatures and the risk of having a kidney stone.  Also, after heat waves, medical visits for this stones peak about 3 days later.  The researchers reported that if our average daily temperatures increase as most climatologists predict, we will continue to see more kidney stones.  Currently there are 70% more kidney stone events than we had 20 years ago with approximately 1 in 10 adults suffering this painful condition.

The primary mechanism of this heat-related increase is thought to be the dehydration that can occur in hot weather, causing more concentrated urine as our body tries to conserve water.  This is best prevented by increasing our fluid consumption.  But there are other things we could do to prevent this painful problem – and many experts say the pain of blocked ureter from a stone can exceed the pain experienced during childbirth.  Besides making sure we are drinking 2-3 quarts of fluid daily with more during hot weather, it is important to decrease overall salt in the diet since our kidneys  have to work overtime to excrete the salt losing valuable water in the process.  In the past because most stones have calcium, some doctors had advised cutting back on this mineral.  However, now most experts believe that calcium is not chief culprit.  Instead most stones also contain oxalates which are found in chocolate, tea, nuts, spinach, sweet potato, and other foods.  It makes better sense to decrease these foods rather than to decrease calcium. 


1.  I drink very little water during the day, but do consume tea, coffee, juice, soft drinks,  and milk.  Do these fluids count toward the 2-3 quart daily amount?

Answer--yes and no.  Although they are not as good as pure water, they help.  However it is smart to limit your intake of caffeinated products to 12-16 ounces per day, juice to 6-8 ounces per day and soft drinks 0-1 daily for other health reasons.  That would still require at least a quart of water which is the best hydrating fluid!

2.  How do you know when you are working on a kidney stone?  

Answer -- it is not just low back pain which can be a sign -- usually there will also will be a trace of blood in the urine.  Sometimes this cannot be seen with the naked eye but a simple test at a doctor's office can easily determine this problem.  Sometimes the pain is very severe, associated with nausea and vomiting.  When this occurs it is very difficult to increase fluid intake, and at that point most experts would generally recommend an urgent visit as soon as possible to get evaluated and treated.