DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I continue to get kidney stones despite drinking plenty of water. They are quite small and I haven’t had to be treated yet. But my doctor said if my symptoms get worse, I will need treatment. What would that involve?
ANSWER: Treatment for kidney stones depends on the type of stone and their cause. In many cases, dietary changes and medication are all that’s needed for small stones. Larger stones may require additional treatment.
Kidney stones form from minerals and acid salts. About 85 percent of kidney stones are calcium based, typically calcium oxalate. Less common are uric acid stones, struvite stones and cystine stones. Your doctor can use blood and urine tests to find out what kind of stones you have. If you’ve passed a stone, a laboratory analysis can reveal the make-up of the stone.
If your stones are calcium oxalate -- as most kidney stones are -- you need to keep doing what you’ve already started: Drink lots of water. The typical recommendation is to drink about 8 to 10 ounces of water every hour you’re awake.
There are several benefits to drinking that much water when dealing with kidney stones. First, it flushes out your urinary system and helps small stones pass more easily. Second, diluted urine lowers the chances that calcium oxalate stones will form in the first place. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent uric acid stones and cystine stones, too.
A variety of changes in your diet can lower your risk of forming new calcium oxalate stones. Oxalate is a substance found in certain foods. For people at risk for these kidney stones, eating fewer oxalate-rich foods can help. They include foods such as spinach, beets, Swiss chard, rhubarb, almonds and granola, among others.
A low-salt diet can be useful in preventing calcium oxalate kidney stones, as can getting the right amount of calcium from the foods you eat. Some people with kidney stones are advised to eat more citrus fruits because a substance in those fruits, called citrate, can naturally inhibit stone formation.