Chronic Kidney Disease and Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are a very common condition. About 1 in 10 people will have kidney stones at some point in their lives. Kidney stones can be very painful, but they are straightforward to treat for most people. However, having kidney stones increases your chance of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD).1-3

What are kidney stones?

A kidney stone is a small, hard object that forms from chemicals in the urine. Urine has dissolved waste in it. But if you have too much waste and not enough liquid, the waste cannot dissolve. It forms small crystals and attracts other solids. The solids continue to grow if they are not passed out of the body.1

Most people have enough liquid in their urine to wash any solids out of the body. But for some people, these solids form kidney stones.1

There are 4 types of kidney stones:1

  • Calcium oxalate – This is the most common type of kidney stone. It is created when calcium and oxalate combine in the urine.
  • Uric acid – This is also a common type of kidney stone. Foods like shellfish have a lot of a chemical compound called purines. If you eat a lot of purine, your body makes more monosodium urate, a type of uric acid salt. This salt can then collect to form stones in the kidneys.
  • Struvite – These kidney stones are less common. They are caused by infections in the upper urinary tract.
  • Cystine – This type of kidney stone is rare. It tends to run in families.

Kidney stones can be as small as sand or as big as a pebble – sometimes even a golf ball. Typically, the larger a stone is, the worse the symptoms are. Symptoms of kidney stones include:1

  • Severe pain in the low back
  • Stomach pain that doesn’t go away
  • Blood in the urine
  • Fever or chills
  • Smelly or cloudy urine

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Is there a link between chronic kidney disease and kidney stones?

Research shows that a history of repeated kidney stones is a risk factor for developing CKD. One study found that people with a history of kidney stones are almost 2 times as likely to develop CKD. Compared to other risk factors like age, gender, high blood pressure, and diabetes, only diabetes increased the risk for CKD more than kidney stones.2,3

Experts do not know exactly why kidney stones increase the risk for CKD. Some possible explanations are infections, inflammation, or treatment side effects. Doctors believe the reason may be a combination of several factors.2,3

Some research shows that if you develop CKD, your risk of kidney stones may fall. However, more research is needed to confirm this.2,3

How to prevent kidney stones

If you have 1 kidney stone, you are much more likely to have another. People who have had 1 stone have a 50 percent chance of getting another stone in 5 to 7 years. But there are steps you can take to lower your chance of first-time or repeat kidney stones:1

  • Drink lots of water, ideally 12 cups per day. Try to avoid other drinks like soda, coffee, or juice.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer animal proteins.
  • Avoid foods that have a lot of salt.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat foods that are high in calcium. This prevents calcium oxalate stones because the calcium binds to the oxalate before it reaches the kidneys.

If you have had a kidney stone, talk with your doctor about steps to prevent more. They may recommend diet or lifestyle changes. If you want to make diet changes, consider meeting with a registered dietitian. Beware of crash diets – they can increase your risk of kidney stones.1

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