Harvard Men's Health Watch

Kidney stones: Common, painful, preventable

Kidney stones have plagued men throughout recorded history; the problem has even been "diagnosed" in Egyptian mummies that date back some 7,000 years. In the modern world, this old problem is more common than ever. In the U.S., the prevalence of kidney stones increased from 3.2% in the mid-'70s to 5.2% in the mid-'90s, and the rates are continuing to rise. At present, kidney stones send almost three million Americans to the doctor each year, including over 500,000 trips to emergency rooms. Between 5% and 10% of all active stone passers may require hospitalization.

It's a big problem caused by tiny deposits that may be less than a tenth of an inch across. It's a painful problem that can have serious complications. But it's a treatable problem and, best of all, a largely preventable one.

Who gets kidney stones?

Men, mostly. Although kidney stones do form in women, they are about two times more common in men. In all, more than one of every eight American men will develop a kidney stone at some time during his life; the highest risk occurs between the ages of 20 and 50, with a peak at age 30.

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