Uric Acid Kidney Stones Symptoms & Top Treatments
Kidney stones are known as one of the most painful health problems you can experience. It’s incredible how such a teeny-tiny stone can cause excruciating pain.
But what many people don’t realize that there isn’t just one type of kidney stone wreaking havoc on your body.
There are are many different types of kidney stones; four main kinds to be exact:
- Struvite Stones
- Cystine stones
- Uric acid stones
Today, I’m going to focus on uric acid stones. What are they? What symptoms do they come with? What treatment options do you have? And how do you avoid getting another one in the future?
First off – just how common are these painful stones?
Well, about 10% of people will have a kidney stone in their lifetime. But most of those kidney stones are calcium-oxalate stones. So the odds of getting a uric acid stone are not that high.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t pop up! If you are a kidney stone sufferer, it’s important to understand this type of kidney stone and what you can do about it. So let’s dive in.
What Are Uric Acid Stones?
Uric acid stones develop when there is too much uric acid, essentially a waste product, in your urine.
In a normal situation, the uric acid is diluted by your urine just exits the body when you go to the bathroom.
But when there is too much uric acid, it starts crystalizing. Then the crystals join together and you are left with a uric acid kidney stone.
You are more prone to uric acid stones…
- If your body does not process uric acid correctly
- If you have gout
- If you have inflammatory bowel disease
- If you eat too many purines (more on that later!)
- If you are obese
- If you are have diabetes
- If you have gone through chemotherapy
- If you are dehydrated and don’t have enough urine to dilute the uric acid
Uric Acid Stone Symptoms
The symptoms of kidney stones are often the same no matter what type of stone they have.
By far, the No. 1 symptom of any kidney stone is pain. This includes:
- Lower back pain
- Side pain
- Abdomen pain
- Groin pain
Then you can also experience these other symptoms that are very similar to a UTI:
- Bloody urine or cloudy urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Frequent, yet small amounts of urination
- Nausea or vomiting
Since urinary tract infections can travel up to the kidneys and cause pain in the same areas as a kidney stone, sometimes people are not sure which they have. Just head to your doctor for a firm diagnosis. They will probably make you do a urinalysis. Perhaps they will use an imaging machine to peak into your kidneys as well.
“Wait! How Do I Know What Type of Kidney Stone I Have?”
So you probably thinking, “If kidney stone symptoms are the same, how do I know if I have a uric acid stone or a calcium-oxalate stone or another type of stone?”
The best way to know what type of stone you have requires that you actually pass it first. So with your first stone, you will probably just have to guess (don’t worry, the treatment options are about the same for all the stones).
When you are just about to pass your stone, you should use a strainer every time you use the bathroom. This way you can catch the stone. Your doctor can then send it in for analysis.
Your doctor may also be able to determine the stone type by taking blood and urine samples. If you have an overabundance of uric acid, it is probably safe to assume that you’re dealing with a uric acid stone.
Uric Acid Stone Treatment Options
Once you know you have a kidney stone – whether it’s a uric acid stone or another type – the treatment options are all about the same. What direction your doctor recommends largely depends upon the size of your stone.
Treatment Option #1: Watch and Wait
Most doctors will tell you to simply “watch and wait” if you have a smaller stone. This means you will see if it passes on its own. If your uric acid stone is under 7mm, this is the method your doctor will probably choose.
Normally, you will be given a pain medication to help you through the passing process. You will also be instructed to drink plenty of water.
Treatment Option #2: Medical Intervention
If you’ve been “watching and waiting” and the stone won’t pass, if you are showing signs of infection, or if the stone was simply too big to pass on its own, your doctor will utilize one of the many medical intervention options.
These can include:
- Shockwave lithotripsy therapy: This breaks up a large stone into small pieces that are able to pass on their own. This procedure is very quick, and the stone fragments should pass in a few days.
- Ureteroscopy: This is normally used if a kidney stone is stuck in your ureters. Your doctor may break up the kidney stone so it can pass in smaller pieces, remove it entirely, or even push it back up into your kidneys so it can use the shockwave therapy.
- Nephrolithotripsy: This is a very invasive treatment when the doctor comes in through your back and inserts a tube into your kidney. Most of the time the doctor will break up the large stone and pull it out in smaller pieces.
- Surgery: This is when the entire kidney stone is removed through the abdomen. This is a rare treatment, but it is still used occasionally.
Treatment Option #3: Chanca Piedra
No matter which treatment method you use, chanca piedra can help your kidney stone situation. This herb is literally translated “stone crusher.” (I know that’s exactly what you want!).
This is a traditional herb used for centuries to help people with kidney stone problems. Recently, modern science has begun to see that it truly is an effective solution. It can do everything from prevent the stones from forming to helping the stone pass.
While you can enjoy chanca piedra in tea form, it is most effective in a concentrated supplement form when you need immediate support.
Should You Start a Low Purine Diet?
Every one of us already has something called purines in our bodies – they are molecules in our DNA and RNA. And they are also found in many foods.
In somebody not prone to kidney stones, purines are no big deal. In fact, they are just a part of a healthy body.
But there’s one problem for kidney stone sufferers: when purines are digested, they turn into a particular waste product. Any ideas? Yes – uric acid.
If you are already high in uric acid or are prone to uric acid stones, eating a low purine diet is essential to keeping these stones away. If you are prone to other types of kidney stones, this may not be as much of an issue for you.
Here is a short list of high-purine foods you will want to avoid:
- Organ meats (like liver or kidneys)
- Game meats (like veal or duck)
- Red meats (like beef or lamb)
- Dark poultry (like chicken thighs)
- Some seafood (some of the worst offenders are anchovies, tuna, mackerel, mussels, and scallops)
- High-fat dairy (like whole milk)
One of the best ways to limit these purine foods is to have a few vegetarian or vegan meals each week. You can replace some of that protein with eggs, nuts, and high-protein grains.
Other Ways To Prevent Uric Acid Stones From Coming Again
Outside of limiting your purine content, there are a few steps you should be taking to reduce your chances of developing another kidney stone. Remember these are lifestyle changes. You will need to get into a regular routine of doing these things for the rest of your life.
- Drink plenty of water: Not drinking enough water is one of the main reasons you get a kidney stones. When you aren’t properly hydrated, your urine is more concentrated. This gives all those stone-forming substances – like uric acid – the chance to gather together and form a stone. Make sure to drink plenty of water!
- Exercise: Regular physical activity greatly lowers your chances of developing a kidney stone. One study showed it can drop your risk by 31%. That should be encouragement enough to get in the gym.
- Take magnesium: Most Americans are actually deficient in magnesium. Yet deficiency in this mineral is connected to developing more stones. Taking a magnesium supplement is important. Also boost leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and beans.
- Decrease animal protein: Animal protein in general has been shown to increase kidney stone odds – another reason to enjoy a few vegan meals throughout the week
Uric Acid Stones 101
Now you should have a much better understanding of this type of kidney stone.
If you are currently passing a kidney stone and have no idea what type of stone it is – be very diligent about catching it, so you can get it analyzed.
Knowing the type of stone your prone to can really make a difference in how you prevent it (We know that uric acid stone sufferers need to limit purines, but those with calcium-oxalate stones need to limit oxalates).
If you know you have had a uric acid kidney stone in the past, just be sure to limit your purines, make the recommended lifestyle changes, and follow any of your doctors orders depending upon your particular condition (like managing your diabetes or losing weight).
Finally, get some chanca piedra so you can start naturally preventing another round of kidney stones. Then you can have it on hand if another stone strikes.