There are many different kinds of stones that can form in the urinary tract. Each type of stone may be caused by its own particular unique abnormality of body chemistry and physiology. Accordingly, there are as many causes of stone formation as there are particular types of stone.
However, there is one common underlying major causative factor for all types of stone formation and that is dehydration. The more you become dehydrated, the greater is your risk of stone formation. That is why it is so important, especially in hot weather, to drink enough water to avoid dehydration and diminish the likelihood of stone formation.
How much water is enough? Generally, for adults who have already had the experience of having formed a stone, between one and four quarts of water in 24 hours is sufficient. It is not advisable to consume more than four quarts a day as that may lead to other serious problems.
There are many other underlying possible causes of stone development. Heredity and dietary factors, ingestion of excessively large “megadoses” of vitamin C, prolonged bed rest necessitated by bone fractures, trauma or other illnesses, an obstruction anywhere in the urinary tract resulting in stagnation and slowing of the flow of urine, infection, specific kidney tubule disorders and chronic inflammatory bowel disease can all lead to stone formation. There are a several specific metabolic and hormonal causes often associated with stone formation of a particular type. Some stones are made of Calcium, in combination with Oxalate or Phosphate, some of Uric Acid, some of a substance called Cystine and other less common stones related to the ingestion of certain foods or drugs.
It is most important to chemically analyze the stone itself, if it can be captured. Knowledge of the chemical content of the stone is an excellent guide as to which foods or medications should be used and which avoided.
Analysis of a 24-hour urine collection for total volume, Calcium, Phosphorus, Uric Acid, Cystine, Oxalate, Citrate, Sodium, Magnesium and certain blood tests, such as Uric Acid, Calcium, Phosphorus and Parathyroid Hormone, are also very valuable sources of information that helps the urologist offer correct and appropriate treatment to the stone forming patient.
Some urinary tract stones, particularly those made of Uric Acid or Cystine can often be completely dissolved and their future recurrence prevented by the use of appropriate medication. Collection of a 24-hour urine specimen is therefore an important diagnostic test in determining the cause of stone formation. Elevations of the 24-hour urinary output of Uric Acid, Calcium, Cystine, Sodium and Oxalate or diminution in the output of Phosphorus, Citrate or Magnesium can lead to a marked increase in the likelihood of urinary tract stone formation. That is why it is so important to analyze the 24-hour urine specimen.
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