By drinking eight to 12 cups of water daily, you can help prevent minerals - calcium, oxalate and sometimes uric acid - from binding together and forming kidney stones. (Photo Courtesy of CNS Photo)
TAKE CARE/Tips from Staten Island University Hospital
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - ALL SHORES -
A hot beverage on a cold day may be just the thing to warm you up, but overindulging in some drinks too often may be a recipe for kidney stones. Depending on what you are downing, it could cause dehydration.
"Alcohol, hot tea and hot coffee are all diuretics and for stone patients, this is a setup for stone formation," said Dr. Michael Savino, associate director of urology at Staten Island University Hospital's Prince's Bay campus.
Stones form when minerals – calcium, oxalate and sometimes uric acid – build up in the urine and form hard crystals in the kidneys. By drinking eight to 12 cups of water daily, you can help prevent these minerals from binding together.
However, alcohol and caffeinated beverages cause the kidneys to make more urine. If you drink too much alcohol or caffeine and not enough water or other liquids, you can become dehydrated.
When you dehydrate, minerals in your urine concentrate and lead to crystal formation. The subsequent stone may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract.
Most people tend to associate dehydration and kidney stones with the spring and summer, but right now, is when the stones are starting to develop, explained Dr. Savino.
"In the winter months, most people who are stone formers do not hydrate enough," said the urologist. "They're not sweating. They're not physically active outside and they don't feel thirsty, so they're not hydrating the way stone patients should."
"Stone season" usually begins around March or April and continues to about November, he added. During this time, patients who are predisposed to forming stones experience clinical symptoms such as severe pain in the back or stomach, nausea and vomiting, frequent and painful urination or blood in the urine.
Pain is dependent on the size, location and shape of the kidney stone. If the stone is small enough, there may be no symptoms at all.
While most kidney stones are small enough to pass through the urinary tract on their own, others require medical or surgical intervention.
And once you're rid of the stone, there's a fair chance you'll have a recurrence, noted Dr. Savino.
"There's a 50-50 rule. About 50 percent of the people who develop one stone will go on to make another stone in the next five years," he said. "The other 50 percent will be the lucky ones who have one stone attack and never have it happen again for the rest of their lives."
So what should those prone to stones do?
"This is the time you drink your liquids and cut down on your alcohol. Alternate your cocktail with a glass of club soda or water," explained Dr. Savino. "A common denominator for stone prevention is fluids and the best are water-based liquids."
This column is provided as a community service by Staten Island University Hospital. It was written by