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EDITORIAL: Don’t let summer become a season of kidney stones

by STAFF REPORT | June 14, 2022 at 7:08 a.m.

If you don't remember to take water breaks between exercising, playing with your children and working in the yard this summer, dehydration may not be the only problem that results.

You practically live outside in the summer. During all that activity in the heat and humidity, your body loses fluids as you sweat. Replenishing those lost fluids is essential to avoid dehydration, which is a major risk factor for a common condition among men: kidney stones.

Kidney stones, which are typically tiny, form when minerals and chemicals in the urine merge. Nearly 20 percent of men can expect to have a kidney stone during their lifetime, likely after age 30. Kidney stones are known for causing severe pain when they become stuck in the urinary tract as they make their way out of the body but discomfort isn't the only reason to take them seriously: They can damage the kidneys, lead to urinary tract infections and may increase stroke and heart disease risks.

How does the relationship between kidney stones and dehydration work? When you don't replace the fluids your body loses, urine volume falls. If you don't have enough urine, the amount of waste material in the urine may exceed the amount of liquid available to neutralize it and carry it out of the body. When this happens, urine becomes concentrated, and the elements that form kidney stones are able to come together more easily.

The No. 1 way to prevent most kidney stones -- not to mention avoid dehydration -- is to drink an adequate amount of fluids each day, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Experts recommend drinking 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day, most of which should be water.

You might think it's a pain to stop the lawn mower and return to the house for a glass of water or have to take a few more bathroom breaks during your flag football game but a little figurative discomfort is worth it to avoid the very real sting of kidney stones.

Spotting the signs of dehydration

If your body were crying out for more fluids, would you know it? Thirst may be the most obvious sign of dehydration but it's far from the only one. Brush up on identifying dehydration with these tips:

• Assess your energy level. If you feel unusually lethargic, dehydration could be the reason.

• Feel your skin. If it's cool and dry to the touch, you may be dehydrated.

• Listen to your body. It may send several signals you need more fluids, including headache, lightheadedness, muscle cramps, dry mouth and decreased tear output.

• Scrutinize your waste -- or lack thereof. If you're dehydrated, you may urinate less than normal and you may become constipated. The urine you produce may be darker than usual.

Talk to your primary care provider if you have concerns about dehydration or kidney stones. If you're looking for a provider, Siloam Springs Internal Medicine is accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment visit NW-Physicians.com or call 479-215-3070 today.

About Northwest Physicians

Northwest Physicians, an affiliate of Northwest Health, includes a team of skilled and compassionate physicians, advanced practice providers and support staff from a variety of specialties dedicated to a common purpose -- to provide patients with expert medical care that's easy to access. With more than 30 locations throughout Northwest Arkansas and online scheduling with many providers, it's easier than ever to connect with a Northwest physician. Extended hours and online check-in are both provided at the organization's urgent care centers. For more information, visit NW-Physicians.com.

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