The 4 Categories of Kidney Stones

The 4 Categories of Kidney Stones

Every year, more than half a million women and men in the United States head to the emergency room because of excruciating pain from a kidney stone. When you’re in the middle of a painful emergency, you’re probably not that interested in analyzing the type of kidney stone you have, why you have it, or how you can prevent the next one.

But understanding more about the types of kidney stones you’re prone to, and what changes to your lifestyle you can make to prevent them, gives you power over your pain and your life. Alex Lesani, MD, a skilled urologist and urologic surgeon in Las Vegas, Nevada, wants your kidney stones to become a distant memory.

That’s why he and our team have produced this brief guide to understanding the four main types of kidney stones, why you develop them, and how to prevent them. After all, once you’ve had one kidney stone, you never want to have another.

1. Calcium stones

Sometimes called calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate stones, calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone. A collection of minerals in your kidneys create all kidney stones. In this case, calcium stones are caused by clusters of:

However, calcium stones aren’t created by eating excessive calcium. In fact, calcium stones are usually a sign that you’re not ingesting enough calcium. When you have sufficient calcium, it binds to oxalates and phosphates so your body can more easily eliminate those minerals.

Oxalates are a mineral found in green, leafy vegetables and other healthy foods. Eat too many of them without also eating calcium-rich foods, and you could develop a calcium stone.

If you’re prone to calcium kidney stones, the following measures can help prevent them:

You may be able to dissolve a calcium oxalate stone with vitamin C. If you have a calcium phosphate stone, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or an underlying medical condition.

2. Uric acid stones

When you eat foods that contain purines, your body produces uric acid to break them down and excrete them. However, if you eat too many purines, you produce so much uric acid that your body expel it. Instead, it collects in your kidneys and other places, such as your big toe joint (which causes gout).

The first thing to do to prevent uric acid stones is to ensure you stay hydrated. That means drinking more than the recommended 8-10 cups of water daily if you sweat or work out a lot.

Also, cut down on high-purine foods, such as red meat, seafood, and beer. Avoid organ meats, too, to reduce your risk of a stone.

3. Struvite stones

Up to 15% of kidney stones are struvite stones. These hard clusters of minerals are composed of excess magnesium ammonium phosphate. You can’t modify your diet to prevent struvite stones.

Struvite stones are the result of a urinary tract infection (UTI). When you have a UTI, the infectious bacteria produce urease, which hardens into struvite stones.

Dr. Lesani treats your UTI with antibiotics. He may prescribe urease inhibitors or acetohydroxamic acid (AHA) to dissolve the stones. He also discusses ways to avoid future UTIs by staying hydrated and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

4. Cystine stones

Cystine stones are rare, and that’s a good thing. Cystine stones are usually larger than other kidney stones and may be impossible to pass on their own. 

Cystine stones are the result of a medical condition called cystinuria, which means that you can’t process cystine, an amino acid that’s nearly omnipresent in our bodies. Instead, the excess cystine collects in your urine and kidneys and creates stones.

If your kidney stones are small, Dr. Lesani may simply recommend hydration, medications, or therapy to break them apart or dissolve them. Larger stones may need treatments, such as shockwave therapy or surgery.

Get help with painful kidney stones and learn how to prevent more by phoning our friendly team at 702-470-2579 today. You can also book your appointment online.

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