The Link Between Kidney Stones and Diabetes

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin the right way. Insulin is an important hormone that keeps your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. High blood sugar can cause issues all over your body, including your kidneys.

Studies show that having type 2 diabetes more than doubles your chances of having kidney stones. Research also suggests that using insulin to treat your type 2 diabetes makes those chances even higher. Kidney stones are even more likely for people who have severe diabetes, where blood sugar levels are highest.

But why?

The Connection

Kidney stones form when your urine has high amounts of things like calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. When you have so much of these things, your body can’t dilute them. As a result, deposits of crystals can form in your urine. These are kidney stones.

Insulin resistance from diabetes (when your cells stop responding to insulin) can raise the levels of calcium in your urine. That can make kidney stones more likely. When you have type 2 diabetes, high levels of insulin can make your urine more acidic. That could lead to a special type of kidney stones called uric acid stones.

There are other things that could play a part in kidney stones, including:

  • A diet high in protein, sugar, and/or sodium
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Certain diseases, including those that affect the kidneys
  • Family history of kidney stones
  • Intestinal surgery
  • Some medications

What to Expect

In most cases, kidney stones don’t cause lasting damage as long as you find them quickly enough. They can be very painful. But to treat them, you may only need to:

In some cases, like when a stone blocks the urinary tract or causes complications like infection, you may need surgery to remove it.

Small kidney stones may pass easily through your urine and out your body without any pain. Larger ones may cause things like:

  • Pain or burning when you pee
  • Blood in your pee
  • Sharp pain in your back, groin, or lower abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting

Continued

How to Prevent Kidney Stones

There are things you can do every day to help keep kidney stones from forming.

Keep your blood sugar in check. Work with your doctor to make sure your diabetes is under control. That can happen through medication, lifestyle changes, or both.

Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do to stop stones from forming. Try to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

Eat a healthy diet. Experts suggest the heart-healthy DASH diet, which is rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and fish and lean poultry. Be careful with animal protein, though. Too much of it from things like red meat, poultry, and seafood can raise your levels of uric acid. That can make kidney stones more likely. When you do have meat, keep your portion to about the size of a deck of cards. Talk with your doctor before you make any big changes.

Exercise. It can help you lose extra pounds and it can play a big part in helping you manage your diabetes. Just make sure that you stay hydrated while you get your sweat on. Not sure what to do? Your doctor can help you find the right exercise program for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 08, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Diabetes Association: “Type 2 Diabetes,” "Exercise for Diabetes and Get a Leg Up."

National Kidney Foundation: “Diabetes - A Major Risk Factor for Kidney Disease.”

European Urology: “Diabetic Severity and Risk of Kidney Stone Disease.”

Mayo Clinic: “Kidney Stones.”

The Journal of Urology: “Increased Risk of Diabetes in Patients with Urinary Calculi: A 5-Year Followup Study.”

Advanced Biomedical Research: “Type 2 diabetes mellitus and renal stones.”

American Kidney Fund: “Kidney Stone Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, & Prevention.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Kidney Stones,” “DASH Eating Plan.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: "Kidney Stones"

Harvard Health Publishing: "5 steps for preventing kidney stones."

CDC: "Insulin Resistance and Diabetes."

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