What causes nephrolithiasis?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: Chirag N Dave, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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Answer

A low fluid intake, with a subsequent low volume of urine production, produces high concentrations of stone-forming solutes in the urine. This is an important, if not the most important, environmental factor in kidney stone formation. The exact nature of the tubular damage or dysfunction that leads to stone formation has not been characterized.

Most research on the etiology and prevention of urinary tract stone disease has been directed toward the role of elevated urinary levels of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid in stone formation, as well as reduced urinary citrate levels.

Hypercalciuria is the most common metabolic abnormality. Some cases of hypercalciuria are related to increased intestinal absorption of calcium (associated with excess dietary calcium and/or overactive calcium absorption mechanisms), some are related to excess resorption of calcium from bone (ie, hyperparathyroidism), and some are related to an inability of the renal tubules to properly reclaim calcium in the glomerular filtrate (renal-leak hypercalciuria).

Magnesium and especially citrate are important inhibitors of stone formation in the urinary tract. Decreased levels of these in the urine predispose to stone formation.


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