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Types of kidney stones and their prevention


Kidney stones are caused by different salts in the urine. Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone. They are either spiky or large and smooth, and are made up of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate and are more common in people who have excess levels of vitamin D. Uric acid stones are smooth, brown and soft. Excess amounts of uric acid can be caused by eating a lot of meat. Struvite stones (infection stones) are usually large and have a horn-like shape. They develop when there is too much ammonia in the urine. Cystine stones are yellow and crystalline. They develop if you have high levels of cystine in your urine, which happens if you have a hereditary disorder called cystinuria.


To help prevent any type of kidney stone you should drink more fluid. You should aim to drink at least three liters every 24 hours, or enough to make your urine clear rather than a yellow color.


It used to be thought that reducing the amount of calcium in your diet would lower the risk of developing calcium stones. However, research has shown that a diet containing normal or even increased amounts of calcium containing food (such as dairy products or green leafed vegetables) may be more helpful. If you get calcium oxalate stones, cut down on foods that have high levels of oxalate - chocolate, tea, rhubarb, cooked spinach and asparagus.


If you get uric acid stones you should eat less meat, fish and poultry, and your doctor may prescribe medicine to help reduce the level of uric acid in your urine. However it is recommended you should discuss dietary changes with your doctor as they are not appropriate for everyone.


If you develop struvite or "infection" stones your urine must be kept free of the bacteria that are causing the infection. This may mean taking long-term antibiotics. If you get cystine stones, your doctor may prescribe medicines to reduce the chance of the stones forming.

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