Kidney Research Since 1999

Jennifer Freeman, MD

2008 Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) procured at UT Health San Antonio - Currently a surgeon in Dallas, TX

Sep 28, 2018 5 min read

Remedies for The 5 Most Common Types of Kidney Stones

calcium oxalate kidney stones

Unless you’ve had a kidney stone, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time wondering about their causes, how to prevent them nor what they’re made of. But the fact is, not all kidney stones are created the same way, and each type has a few different risk factors and causes that you should be aware of. As you can probably guess, they are not all treated the same. From stones that form due to your diet and lifestyle choices to stones that form because of a genetic condition, kidney stones can range from virtually unnoticeable to extremely painful – and even life threatening. Here is a basic breakdown of the five most common types of kidney stones, how they are caused and how you can help prevent them from happening to you.

calcium oxalate kidney stones

Calcium Oxalate Stones

Calcium kidney stones are by far the most common type experienced by patients. Around 8 percent of kidney stones can be categorized as calcium-type stones, and of those, most are calcium oxalate stones. These crystals are caused by an abundance of calcium in the urine, which combines with oxalic acid. These stones are relatively quite small, and most that are 7mm or less can usually be passed without the need for surgery or intervention. There are a few main causes of calcium oxalate stones. Some instances are the result of a systemic disease, such as bowel disease. However, most are caused by heredity, diet and living habits. To help prevent these types of stones, you can make changes that will reduce your chances of developing them. Drink plenty of water – a couple quarts per day, or more, is a goal you should shoot for. And if you exercise, make sure you up your fluid intake accordingly, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate. You can also eat less protein and consume fewer salty foods. While you should continue eating calcium-rich foods, ask your doctor before starting calcium supplements (calcium from food doesn’t increase your risk of developing stones, but calcium supplements can). Lastly and most importantly, there is some evidence to support consumption of high grade Chanca Piedra to dissolve the stones in the lower urinary tract.

Calcium Phosphate Kidney Stones

Calcium Phosphate Stones

Calcium phosphate stones are similar to calcium oxalate stones, but instead of the calcium combining with oxalic acid, it combines with phosphoric acid. These kinds of stones are not as common, but are more often found in those who have alkaline urine. These stones are typically larger than calcium oxalate stones. Calcium phosphate stones can be further broken down into two additional types: brushite, which do not break easily and as a result don’t respond well to shock wave treatment, and hydroxyapatite, which can plug the kidneys and damage their cells. They are often caused by certain diseases such as hyperparathyroidism and renal tubular acidosis. To help prevent calcuim phosphate stones, you will want to make sure you get plenty of exercise and eat a diet that is low in sodium and low in animal protein. It is still important to get enough calcium through the foods you eat. You’ll want to shoot for around 800 mg a day. You also may want to include cranberry juice in your daily liquid consumption, as it helps balance the pH of urine. It’s acidic, which will even out its alkaline state. Also, for both types of calcium stones, you’ll want to cut down or eliminate soft drink consumption. Soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which can induce the formation of crystals and stones.

Uric Acid Kidney Stone

Uric Acid Stones

Around 10 percent of patients with kidney stones have uric acid stones, which form when the urine is too acidic. They are often red or orange in color because they absorb hemoglobin products in the urine, that are also red-orange in color. Small crystals can pass through as a gravel-like substance, but since uric acid crystals can form and grow rapidly, there is the possibility that they can become very large and cause serious problems. Risk factors for this type of kidney stone includes obesity, dehydration, diabetes, gout and people with kidney disease. They can also often be found in those who consume a high-protein diet, particularly when it’s animal-based protein. As with many other types of kidney stones, limiting animal protein is key to reducing your chances of developing this particular type.

Struvite Kidney Stones

Struvite Stones

Struvite stones are made up of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate. These stones are created in the body by certain types of bacteria, which affects the chemical balance in the urine. These types of stones, also known as infection stones, are more common in women than in men, mostly due to the fact that women are more prone to urinary tract infections. These stones often have irregular, jagged edges and can grow to a large size. There is also the possibility of causing problems outside of the kidneys, as they can even enter the bloodstream and cause sepsis.

Cystine Kidney Stones

Cystine Stones

Cystine kidney stones are the least common of these five types, and they are relegated to those who are born with a hereditary kidney disorder called cystinuria. Cystinuria sufferers have kidneys that function well for the most part, but they let abnormal amounts of several amino acids into the urine. Most of these amino acids are harmless, but one is not. This amino acid, cystine, can create crystals and stones. These types of stones can begin in childhood and aren’t easy to prevent. Some patients benefit from drinking large amounts of fluids to help dilute the urine, and the addition of alkalinization therapy can help keep these stones at bay. Treatment for this type of stone will be lifelong as this condition can’t be cured.

Other Considerations

If you have experienced kidney stones (or you think you may be), scheduling an appointment with a specialist can help you and your doctor discover what type of kidney stones you are more apt to get. Once you have a possible diagnosis, you will likely want to follow the above guidelines. You also might want to consider herbal treatments. You should discuss all herbal remedies with your doctor prior to starting them to ensure there are no interactions with any other medications that you are currently taking. You may also want to consult with a dietitian to make sure you’re on the right path to less pain and good health.