Local News

Kidney Stones Common In Southeast States

Posted September 25, 2003 3:36 a.m. EDT

— Kidney stones are a painful ailment that are more common than most people think.

"Many people say it's the worst pain they've ever experienced," said Dr. Glenn Preminger, a Duke urologist.

Kidney stones

are more common in the southeast than anywhere in the country, even being labeled the "Stone Belt." Urologists believe a combination of the South's hot weather and high-salt diet are big factors.

A kidney stone is a hard mass developed from crystals that separate from the urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. Normally, urine contains chemicals that prevent the crystals from forming. These inhibitors do not seem to work for everyone, however, so some people form stones.

The stones form in all shapes and sizes. They can be as small as a grain of salt and as large as a golf ball.

"Fortunately, 80 percent of stones will pass by themselves spontaneously," Preminger said.

For the stones that do not pass on their own, Preminger uses soundwave energy or minimally invasive surgery to break them up.

Unfortunately, having one stone puts a person at risk for more.

To prevent kidney stones, limit the amount of red meat and salt in the diet and drink plenty of fluids -- at least 100 ounces a day.

"We should be able to reduce their risk of future stones by 90 to 95 percent," Preminger said.

Men are two to three times more likely to get kidney stones, but in the past few years the number of women getting them has risen dramatically.