Skip to main content

Stone Corner: Kidney Stone Risk Factors & Prevention

Kidney stone disease is also referred to as nephrolithiasis or renal calculi. These are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract, from the kidneys to the bladder.

Types of Kidney Stones

More than 80% of Kidney stones are calcium based, most commonly calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate. 

The other less common types of kidney stones are:

  • Uric Acid Stones
  • Struvite Stones
  • Cystine Stones

Patients often have mixed stones (e.g: calcium and uric acid stones).

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Once you’ve had kidney stones a first time, the risk of kidney stone recurrence is about 15% in 1 year, 35-40% at 5 years and 50% in 10 years.

Common risk factors include:

  • Medical history:
    • Positive family history of stones
    • Prior history of nephrolithiasis (kidney stones)
    • Dietary risk factors (e.g; low fluid and low calcium intake, high oxalate and high animal protein intake)
    • Urinary risk factors (e.g; low urine volume and low citrate levels, high urine calcium and uric acid levels)
  • Enhanced oxalate absorption from the gut (e.g, malabsorption, gastric bypass procedures, bariatric surgery, etc.)
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • Obesity


Kidney Stone Prevention

Preventing kidney stones is not impossible but it does take some determination on your part.

#1 – Increase Your Water Intake

You can help prevent kidney stones by modifying your diet and increasing your water intake. Water intake is the key to prevent the recurrence of kidney stones.

The recommended amount of daily water intake is about 64-80 ounces of water a day, which may vary with individuals depending on their medical history, type of kidney stones and certain lab values. The goal is to have >2-2.5 litres of urine per day.

#2 – Dietary Modification (most common recommendations)

We advise all the patients to take the calcium they need according to their age and medical history. The ideal source of calcium is from your food. Consult your doctor for age appropriate calcium requirements.

We advise all the patients to adhere to a low sat diet. We suggest limited sodium intake of 2-2.5 grams per day, which can also vary individually based on your medical history and medications.

Other dietary recommendations are made according to your individual history and type of kidney stones.

#3 – Medications

Medications can also be used to prevent stone formation. This is typically done after a 24-hour evaluation of your urine to identify the risk factors for formation of the stones. Medications are used only after dietary modifications are maximized with no improvement in the risk factors.

Medications are carefully tailored to an individual’s needs after evaluating the medical history, current medications, kidney functions and other laboratory results.

Read more about treating kidney stones.

Contact the Kidney Stone Center

WakeMed is the only hospital in the Triangle to offer immediate help for kidney stones. Contact the WakeMed Kidney Stone Center by calling the Stone Phone at: 919-350-ROCK (7625).

About Shams Zia, MD

Dr. Shams Zia is a Nephrology consultant for the Kidney Stone Center, and she also serves as a hospitalist at WakeMed Raleigh Campus. Appointments with Dr. Zia are made by referral through WakeMed Physician Practices – Urology.