What’s the connection between diabetes and kidney stones?

Diabetes is a condition in which your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly. Insulin is crucial to regulating blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can cause problems in any part of your body, including your kidneys.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may have very acidic urine. That increases your risk for developing kidney stones.

Kidney stones form when you have high concentrations of certain substances in your urine. Some kidney stones form from excess calcium oxalate. Others form from struvite, uric acid, or cystine.

The stones can travel from your kidney through your urinary tract. Small stones may pass through your body and out in your urine with little or no pain.

Larger stones may cause a great deal of pain. They can even get lodged in your urinary tract. That can block urine flow and cause infection or bleeding.

Other symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • back or abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

If you experience severe symptoms of kidney stones, see your doctor. Your doctor may suspect kidney stones based on your symptoms. Urinalysis, blood tests, and imaging tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Anyone can form a kidney stone. In the United States, almost 9 percent of people have had at least one kidney stone, according to the National Kidney Institute.

In addition to diabetes, other risk factors for kidney stones include:

  • obesity
  • diet high in animal protein
  • family history of kidney stones
  • diseases and conditions that affect the kidneys
  • diseases and conditions that affect the amount of calcium and certain acids in your body
  • urinary tract disorders
  • chronic inflammation of the bowel

Certain medications can also put you at higher risk of developing kidney stones. Among them are:

  • diuretics
  • antacids that contain calcium
  • supplements containing calcium
  • topiramate (Topamax, Qudexy XR), an anti-seizure medication
  • indinavir (Crixivan), a drug used in treating HIV infection

Sometimes, no cause can be determined.

Small kidney stones don’t always require treatment. You’ll probably be advised to drink extra water to help flush them out. You’ll know you’re drinking enough water when your urine is pale or clear. Dark urine means you’re not drinking enough.

Over-the-counter pain relievers may be enough to ease the pain of a small stone. If not, your doctor can recommend a stronger medication. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an alpha blocker to help you pass the stone faster.

Large kidney stones may call for powerful prescription painkillers and more intervention. They can cause bleeding, urinary tract infections, or even damage your kidneys.

One commonly used treatment is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, which uses shock waves to break up the stone.

If the stone is in your ureter, your doctor may be able to break it up with a ureteroscope.

If your stones are very large and you can’t pass them, you may need surgery.

Once you’ve had a kidney stone, you have a higher risk of having another. You can reduce your overall risk by maintaining a nutritious diet and managing your weight.

It’s also important to take in plenty of fluids every day. Drink about eight, 8-ounce cups of water or noncaloric beverages a day. Citrus juices may also help. Learn more tips on diabetic diets that can help you lose weight.

If you’ve already had a kidney stone and want to try to prevent the development of additional kidney stones, knowing what caused the stones in the first place will help you to prevent future stones.

One way to find out the cause is to have your stone analyzed. When you are diagnosed with a kidney stone, your doctor will probably ask you to collect urine and to catch the stone when it passes. Lab analysis can help determine the stone’s makeup.

The type of stone will help your doctor decide what changes you should make to your diet.

Some kidney stones form from calcium oxalate, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid calcium. Too little calcium makes oxalate levels rise. It’s best to get your daily calcium from foods. You’ll also need the right amount of vitamin D to properly absorb the calcium.

Excess sodium can increase the calcium in your urine. Cutting back on salty foods may help.

Too much animal protein can raise uric acid and promote stone formation. Lower your risk by eating less red meat.

Other foods may also cause kidney stones to grow. Consider limiting chocolate, tea, and soda.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet may help lower blood pressure. It may also cut down on your chances of developing kidney stones. On the DASH diet, you’ll emphasize the following foods:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • low-fat dairy products

You’ll also include:

  • whole grains
  • beans, seeds, and nuts
  • fish and poultry

You’ll eat only tiny amounts of:

  • sodium
  • added sugar and sweets
  • fat
  • red meat

Portion control is also an important component of DASH. Although it’s called a diet, it’s meant to be a lifelong approach to eating right. Ask your doctor or dietitian for more information about DASH.