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Global Warming Causes Kidney Stones

DALLAS (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Kidney stones are one of the most painful urological disorders. They're also one of the most common. One in 10 people will experience the pain of passing a kidney stone at some point in their lives. New research says where you live may put you at higher risk for developing them.

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Estella Pnwell was at work when it hit.

"It was unbearable," Pnwell told Ivanhoe. "I couldn't even sit or walk."

The mother of five was in excruciating pain from a kidney stone.

"This was worse then labor!" Pnwell said. "Seriously, I should know after five."

Kidney stones are solid crystals that form from dissolved minerals in urine. Taking in too little fluid or losing too much through dehydration is a common cause, but did you know that where you live may also contribute to kidney stones?

"We are predicting there will be an increase in the prevalence of stone disease with global warming," Margaret Pearle, M.D., a urologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, told Ivanhoe.

A new study from urologists at UT Southwestern shows that global warming is creating a kidney-stone belt. The belt includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee -- all places that have seen an increase in temperatures.

"We speculate it's due to fluid losses due to the high temperatures," Dr. Pearle said.

Researchers predict that by 2050, global warming will cause up to an additional 2 million kidney stone cases. That's a 30 percent increase in some areas. Although more fluid intake will help, Dr. Pearle says the main concern is that hospitals need to be prepared.

"We're looking at a billion dollars of increased need for healthcare resources," Dr. Pearle said.

As for Pnwell, she knows her risk is 50 percent higher to have another kidney stone. For now, she's concentrating on staying hydrated -- and celebrating the fact she hasn't had another one.

Most kidney stones are microscopic and pass without pain. In extreme cases, surgery is needed. The largest kidney stone on record weighed three pounds. That's the size of the average human brain.

The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Dr. Margaret Pearle
Dallas, Texas
(214) 648-6853

Peter Weiss
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
(800) 966-2481

American Meteorological Society
Boston, MA 02108-3693
(617) 227-2425

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