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Kidney Stones: Causes

A variety of factors can cause people to develop kidney stones, which affect about 10% of the U.S. population. They usually occur in people between the ages of 20 and 50, and slightly more often in men than women.

Once you've had a kidney stone, you are likely to experience a recurrence. That's why an important part of our treatment is to counsel patients about lifestyle and genetics that can lead to kidney stone formation.

Here are some basics about kidney stone formation you need to know. 


A major risk factor for kidney stones is dehydration, which reduces your urine volume. This is a result of not drinking enough fluids, which is a common problem, especially for people working or living in a hot place. A sign of dehydration is urine that is dark yellow in color.

Simply increasing your fluid intake can reduce your risk of kidney stones. Adults should drink at least 3 liters (100 ounces) of fluid a day. Water is the ideal fluid to drink, but you may also substitute alternatives that are low in sodium and sugar. Unsweetened fruit juices, coffee, red or white wine, and beer may also be beneficial.


Generally, a diet that is good for your heart is also good in preventing kidney stones. This means a low salt diet (less than 2 grams/day), with animal protein intake limited to less than 50 grams/day, but plenty of fruits and vegetables.

The most common type of kidney stone is calcium-based, but restricting calcium in your diet may actually contribute to kidney stone formation as well as poor bone health. People whose bodies tend to form stones should instead focus on eating a balanced diet with normal quantities of calcium (at least 1 gram/day).

Bowel conditions

Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, a history of gastric bypass surgery or other bowel conditions that cause diarrhea are at increased risk of forming kidney stones. Because diarrhea may result in the loss of large amounts of fluid from the body, it also can lower urine volumes and create an environment for stone formation.


Obesity is a risk factor for kidney stones, likely due to excessive intake of salt and animal proteins.

Medical conditions

People with certain medical conditions are at increased risk for kidney stone formation. Gout, hyperparathyroidism, renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria and primary hyperoxaluria are among the conditions associated with kidney stone formation.


Kidney stones are more likely to form in people who take medications for certain medical conditions, including thyroid disease, high blood pressure, fluid retention, cancer, AIDS, asthma, seizures, glaucoma, constipation and even infection.

Specific examples include thyroid hormones, loop diuretics, antacids, chemotherapy drugs, ephedrine, sulfamethoxazole-trimethroprim, topiramate, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, excess vitamin C and laxatives.

Be sure to give your healthcare provider a list of all medications and supplements you take because they can affect your risk of stone formation. Do not stop taking any of these medications unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so.

Family history

Kidney stones can run in families. You are more likely to have them if you have a parent or sibling who has had kidney stones.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 714-456-7005.

Preventing kidney stones ›

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