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Primary Causes of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones

The primary causes of kidney stones include dehydration, diet and hereditary factors.  Renal calculi (the medical name for kidney stones) are a common problem, and statistics indicate that this condition continues to increase annually.

Kidney stones tend to affect some groups of people more than others.  For instance, kidney stones are more likely to affect Caucasian males over the age of 50 years, and persons who previously had kidney stones or whose relatives are currently or were previously affected by kidney stones.

While genetics can cause kidney stones to affect some people, the main cause of kidney stones formation is dehydration or low fluid intake (especially water).  Insufficient fluid intake causes urine to become concentrated, which can lead to stone formation.

Also, the body's reaction to certain metabolic and chemical conditions causes kidney stones formation, in some persons.  In many cases, inappropriate diet and poor lifestyle choices can create the metabolic and chemical conditions in the body that are conducive to renal calculi formation.

A Brief Look at Some Common Causes of Kidney Stones

  • Poor diet is probably one of the main contributors to kidney stones formation, and is a major cause of many other serious health conditions. Modern living has significantly changed our eating habits. Fast foods, over-processed meals, and excessive animal fats and animal proteins form a large part of many people's diets.

    Vegetarians have a much lower risk of developing kidney stones than someone who eats a lot of meat (particularly red meat).

  • Dehydration or low fluid intake is a root cause of kidney stones formation. A lack of fluids (especially water) increases the concentration of minerals in the kidneys. These minerals can then crystallize and clump together and eventually form stones.

    Increased water consumption is probably the single most important thing that can be done to prevent formation of kidney stones.

  • Obesity is a major risk factor for many serious health conditions including kidney stones. It is directly related to poor dietary habits. Obesity puts a lot of strain on the body's organs and biochemical systems.

    Taking measures to deal with obesity (such as balanced diet, exercise, and adequate rest and recreation) will not only reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, but will also reduce the risk of developing many other serious health conditions.

  • Hereditary genetic disorder can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Genetic disorders can inhibit the body's ability to properly absorb substances such as calcium into the bones and other tissues of the body. Since the bones and other tissues cannot properly absorb calcium, it accumulates in the body. The kidneys try to remove the excess calcium but sometimes, it cannot efficiently remove all of it. The excess calcium (and other substances) that is not expelled from the body stays behind and can sometimes clump together in the urinary tract, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones.


Someone whose relatives have been afflicted with kidney stones is at greater risk of also developing kidney stones. To some extent, this also helps to explain why people who have been previously affected by kidney stones are likely to have a recurrence. Of all the causes of kidney stones, this is probably one of the few that is not preventable. With proper dietary and lifestyle choices, however, it can be managed.​

Inherited genetic disorder may not be preventable but with good dietary habits and medication, the risk of developing kidney stones can be reduced.

  • A deficiency of magnesium and potassium can also be a cause of kidney stones. This deficiency may be as a result of poor diet or genetic disorder, which results in the body's inability to absorb these substances.

  • Metabolic disorders such as hyperparathyroidism and Cushing's syndrome can also be causes of kidney stones.


Hyperparathyroidism is a metabolic disorder that results in hyper-activity of the Parathyroid glands. Parathyroid glands are small glands located within or behind the thyroid gland.


Cushing's syndrome is another metabolic disorder that results from excessive amounts of corticosteroids in the body. Corticosteroids are hormones manufactured by the adrenal cortex.

  • Infections that disturb the flow of fluids in the body can also be a cause of kidney stones. In particular, if the flow of urine is affected, calcium and other minerals remain longer in the urinary tract and can form kidney stones.

Most causes of kidney stones, which are not hereditary, can be prevented or significantly minimized.  This can be achieved by simple dietary adjustments and lifestyle changes.  By reducing the consumption of animal proteins, using more vegetable proteins, drinking adequate amounts of water and other fluids, and getting rid of excess body weight can go a long way in eliminating many of the common causes of kidney stones.

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