Gout and the Risk of Kidney Stones

Despite what joints may be affected by gout, this particular form of arthritis can cause another complication – kidney stones.

What are kidney stones and what causes them? Kidney stones are small masses that are rock-like in substance. They can be small enough to be passed through urination, or large enough to block the flow of urine. Passing kidney stones is often an extremely painful experience that most people do not soon forget. Kidney stones can occur for different reasons. However, in the case of gout, kidney stones form as a result of too much uric acid in the urine.

Who is most at risk for developing kidney stones? Essentially, anyone who has recurring cases of gout is at risk for developing kidney stones. However, middle aged men, and the elderly (both women and men) are more likely to develop kidney stones, due to the fact that they are the primary gout sufferers, and have higher levels of uric acid.

Furthermore, kidney stones are most likely to occur in those who suffer from secondary gout and primary gout. Approximately 42% of those diagnosed with secondary gout will experience kidney stones. However, only 10 – 25% of primary gout sufferers will develop stones.

Why is the risk so much higher for secondary gout sufferers? The reason is because unlike those who have primary gout – high levels of uric acid without a known cause, those with secondary gout have high levels of uric acid because of their long-term medication (IE. Diuretics, aspirin, levodopa, etc.) or health condition (IE. alcoholism, obesity, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, etc.)

Additionally, people who have experienced kidney stones are more likely to develop stones again in the future.

What are the signs and symptoms of kidney stones? Although in some cases there may be no symptoms at all, most people who suffer kidney stones report the following:

– Sudden extreme painful cramping that occurs in the lower back, side, groin or abdomen.

– Nausea or vomiting caused by severe pain

– Blood in urine

– Fever and chills may occur if there is an infection in the urinary tract

If you have any of the above symptoms, you should visit your doctor or the emergency room to make sure that what you are experiencing is indeed kidney stones.

How are kidney stones treated? Although the sudden onset of pain may compel you to take a trip to the emergency room, the chances are after you've been x-rayed and diagnosed, a doctor will likely prescribe you pain medication and tell you to drink plenty of water and wait for the kidney stone to pass naturally. Most stones pass within 48 hours when significant fluid is ingested. Symptoms should stop as soon as stones pass.

If the stone will not pass naturally due to its size, a doctor may perform:

– Lithotripsy – A common procedure that uses a shock wave to break up the large stone into small pieces so they can be passed.

– Surgery – there are a few techniques used to surgically remove the stones. These surgeries are often uncomplicated.

How to prevent uric acid kidney stones – The following are ways a gout sufferer can reduce their risk of developing stones:

– Avoid or limit alcohol intake

– Eliminate or limit foods in your diet that raise uric acid levels such as: organ meat, red meat, shellfish, mushrooms, asparagus, dried peas and beans, etc.

– Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated all the time

– Exercise regularly

– Loose weight realistically – If you are overweight or obese avoid crash diets to lose weight quickly. Losing weight too fast can cause a rise in uric acid levels and increase the risk of stones.

– Medication – Talk to your doctor about medication that can help lower and control uric acid levels.