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When one thinks of the warming climate, the phrases that pop into mind probably aren’t ‘nausea & queasiness,’ ‘sharp, stabbing pain,’ or ‘blood in your urine.’  Yet these awful symptoms could become more prolific in the coming decades, as hotter weather appears to be linked with the risk of forming a kidney stone.

This prognosis comes from doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and elsewhere who’ve completed a seven-year-long study of 60,433 patients in several major U.S. cities.

When the temperature goes up, there’s a subsequent increase in the number of people visiting hospitals for stone issues, they write in Environmental Health Perspectives.  According to lead author of the study: “We found that as daily temperatures rise, there is a rapid increase in the probability of patients presenting over the next 20 days with kidney stones.”

The researchers found this correlation to exist in cities with disparate climates, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia–though it was not present in Los Angeles.  They believe that a crucial predictor of kidney-stone risk is the number of ‘hot’ days a city experiences, ones with mean daily temperatures above 81 degrees rather than the city’s annual mean temperature.  They found that Atlanta and Los Angeles both have mean annual temperatures of 63 degrees but that stones were twice as common in Atlanta, which has more hot days.

More sweltering temperatures may be dehydrating people, causing the kind of mineral build-up in their urine that helps kidney stones form.  Stones have been known to grow in as short a period as three months; however, according to the new research, a much shorter link of 3-20 days between when daily temperatures peaked and patients sought medical assistance for stones.  They say that this quicker-than-expected association raises questions about the rate at which kidney stones may develop.

The researchers caution that any future increase in kidney stones is likely to hit people already medically predisposed to them (for instance, those with Randall’s plaques).  Though stones are responsible for about half a million visits to the emergency room each year, only 11% of the U.S. population has developed them.

There’s been a worldwide rise in kidney stones over the last three decades, especially among children.  The reason for their spreading prevalence is still unknown although there have been numerous studies stating that change in diet and fluid consumption has had an impact in stone formation.


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