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Expert Q&A

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What can my son do to stop getting kidney stones?

Asked by Deborah Brown, Dublin, Georgia

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My 30-year-old son has suffered through 39 kidney stones since he was 16. A recent CT scan shows his kidneys are filled with more. Lab results have ascertained that the stones are made up of calcium oxalate. Is there a cure or remedy for this type of kidney stone? My son has continuous problems with them and it's hard to work every day when he's in so much pain.

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry your son is dealing with so much pain.

Kidney stones are common, affecting 10 to 15 percent of the population at some point during their lifetime. The majority of stones are made of calcium oxalate. This particular type of kidney stone affects men more often than women, and tends to show up between 20 and 30 years of age. Roughly half of people with these stones will get at least one more stone within the next 10 years.

Many people have kidney stones without any symptoms and do not know they have the stones until they happen to be found on a test such as an X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound that was performed for an unrelated reason.

Kidney stones are caused by having too much calcium and other substances collect and bind together in the urine. In some instances, this process occurs because of a metabolic problem in the body (such as a disorder of the parathyroid gland). Dehydration as well as taking certain medications can increase the chance of having stones, but often there is no known reason for the condition (called idiopathic kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis).

The treatment and prevention of calcium oxalate stones may involve dietary changes (such as increasing one's fluid intake and decreasing salt and animal protein), drug therapy (including medication for pain relief as well as drugs that may help prevent the stones from forming in the urine), and surgery (most notably lithotripsy, which uses sound waves to break up the stones and allows them to pass in the urine; the stones may also be removed from the kidneys or ureters using a tiny scope).

It is uncommon and unfortunate to have numerous repeated painful kidney stones such as your son has experienced. His condition will need close monitoring and evaluations of his dietary habits, family history, medical history, and more. I hope that he will get the treatment he needs from a physician who specializes in these stones. Please be sure to talk to his doctor to see what else can be done to help him.

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