Can staying hydrated prevent kidney stones?
When temperatures rise, experts often suggest staying in air conditioning and drinking extra water. Not only can that extra water help you feel cool and refreshed, but it can also help eliminate a very painful condition—kidney stones due to dehydration. A kidney stone is a collection of mineral salts and protein that collect to form a solid crystalline mass and can affect up to 10 percent of all Americans at some time in their lives, according to the American Urological Association.
“When it gets hotter outside, people become more dehydrated, and mild dehydration increases your risk for kidney stones, explains Dr. Lodowsky. “Many people don’t drink enough fluids to compensate for the warmer temperatures or they drink fluids that work against the body’s need for fluids—such as alcohol, colas and coffee.”
In most patients, the kidney stones are small enough to pass through urination typically in two to three days. In some cases, a stone may take weeks to months to pass. If a stone becomes stuck in the ureter, the thin tube that connects the bladder to the kidney, symptoms can be very severe. Often, symptoms vary depending on the stone’s location and its progress, Dr. Lodowsky says.
When tests show a kidney stone, the next step is to determine treatment. Options include:
- If experiencing severe vomiting, fever or symptoms of infection, patients should immediately go to the emergency room.
- Drink plenty of water (2 to 3 quarts a day) to help move the stone along, and take painkillers as needed.
- A patient will typically receive a collection kit with a filter to save any passed stones for testing.
- If the stone has not passed in two to three days, the patient will need additional treatments. In some severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.
- Alpha blockers can relax muscles in the urinary tract, helping the kidney stone pass.
Preventing kidney stones
The best approach, Dr. Lodowsky says, is to monitor your fluid intake and stay well hydrated. Producing at least 2 liters of urine a day is the single most important factor to reduce the risk of stone occurrence. In addition, limiting intake of caffeinated beverages helps to maintain hydration because caffeine increases fluid loss.
“Kidneys are very resilient organs, but if you have healthy kidneys, protect them since they work very hard for your body, and when they aren’t working, the symptoms can be incredibly uncomfortable,” Dr. Lodowsky says.
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