• By Jeff Olsen

Mayo Clinic Minute: What causes kidney stones?

December 19, 2017

Approximately 1 in 10 people will deal with kidney stones during their lifetime. The stones, which have many causes, can affect any part of your urinary tract — from the kidneys to the bladder. Passing them can be extremely painful.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Ivan Porter II, a Mayo Clinic nephrologist, explains how kidney stones form and what you can do to reduce your chances of experiencing them.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:00) is in the downloads. Read the script.

The kidneys clean your body by purifying blood and getting rid of water and toxins.

"They filter out minerals and other things in our food and the things that we drink," says Dr. Porter. "And sometimes those minerals can form deposits in the kidney."

Dr. Porter says sometimes those deposits grow into a stone and pass from the kidney.

"And that’s when patients develop pain," he adds.

Some people may have a genetic risk or a family history of stones. Workers who have less flexibility with bathroom breaks are also at risk for them.

"So think about teachers or truck drivers – people who are often holding their urine," adds Dr. Porter.

He says a diet with too many animal-source proteins, high-sodium foods and sugary drinks can increase your risk for stones. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can also contribute to them. However, eating low-fat dairy products with meals can protect you against kidney stones. And water can really help ward them off.

"One of the most important things that you can do is to make sure you’re adequately hydrated," explains Dr. Porter. "You want to be able to make clear urine and keep that urine as clear as possible for as long as possible during the day."

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