Preventing Kidney Stones

Nephrolithiasis is the term for kidney stone disease. It can be painful and even debilitating. With the rising prevalence of nephrolithiasis, the urologists at Virginia Mason are committed to doing everything possible to prevent stones from recurring.

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Contributing risk factors for kidney stone disease include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • A family history of stones
  • Chemical abnormality in the blood or urine
  • Dehydration
  • A diet that is high in protein, high in sodium, or low in fiber
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Problems with parathyroid glands

Certain medications — including diuretics and those taken for migraine headaches — also increase the risk for developing stones.

Evaluating Potential for Recurring Kidney Stones

At Virginia Mason, all of our patients who have kidney stones are thoroughly evaluated to determine the risk of stones recurring.

This comprehensive evaluation includes:

  • A detailed medical and dietary history
  • Urine and blood analysis
  • Analyzing the composition of removed stones
  • Various imaging techniques

In addition, people who have recurring stones or who are at risk of recurring stones are asked to collect all urine for 24 hours. Lab tests of these urine samples help evaluate risks and monitor treatment.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

You can be proactive in reducing your risk for kidney stones by changing some of your lifestyle and dietary habits.

Recommended changes include:

  • Drinking at least three liters of fluid a day – mostly water
  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat fewer high-oxalate foods, green leafy vegetables and nuts
  • Reduce your intake of meat protein
  • Lower your salt intake

Because obesity is a risk factor for stones, losing even a few pounds of weight can help.

Helpful Medications

Research shows that certain medicines help prevent common types of kidney stones from recurring. Depending on the type of stone you tend to get, your urologist may recommend a medication such as:

  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Potassium citrate
  • Allopurinol

Careful Monitoring

If you have had kidney stones, we want to monitor you periodically to prevent stones from recurring. 

Depending on the type of stone you have had, monitoring may include:

  • Periodic imaging with renal ultrasound, X-ray or CT-Scan
  • Periodic blood testing to monitor effects of medications
  • A 24-hour urine specimen to be repeated at six months, and then annually

For more information about kidney stones or to schedule an appointment, call (206) 223-6772.