Global Warming To Cause More Kidney Stones

Dehydration is a major cause of kidney stones, and rising global temperatures will likely increase dehydration and the number of kidney stone cases.

Kidney stones, also referred to as renal calculi, typically form in the kidney or bladder, and are solid formations found in the urine, They can pass through the urine with no symptoms, or can cause severe pain when of significant size. The condition is rather common, as approximately 15% of American adults are expected to have kidney stones at some point in their lives. In warmer climates, like the Middle East, where dehydration is more prevalent, more than 20% of individuals suffer from kidney stones.

At the 103rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA), researchers presented data showing the temperature-dependence of kidney stones. It’s believed that due to global warming, global temperatures will rise approximately 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2050. “Dehydration has been linked to stone disease, particularly in warmer climates, and global warming will exacerbate this effect.”

In America, the prevalence of kidney stones is greatest in the warmer areas, and the fear is that with global warming, much larger regions will become characteristically “warm-climate.” According to the researchers, “the southern United States is considered “the stone belt” because these states have higher incidences of kidney stones. Rising global temperatures could expand this region; the fraction of the U.S. population living in high-risk stone zones is predicted to grow from 40 percent in 2000 to 50 percent by 2050.” They also note that “this could lead to an increase of one to two million lifetime cases of stone disease. The impact of climate-related changes in stone disease will be non-uniformly distributed and likely concentrated in the southern half of the country or upper Midwest. The cost associated with treating stone disease could climb as high as one $1 billion annually by 2050, representing a 10-20 percent increase over present-day estimates.”

The expected rise in kidney stone incidence adds another element to the already important and troubling topic of global warming. While more and more people are becoming aware of the climate changes that are occurring, and mankind’s role in causing these changes, there are still a very sad few in prominent roles that aim to do much about it. While more people getting kidney stones is bad news both for future health, and economically, it’s likely to be one of the lesser problems inflicted by rising global temperatures.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Isett, Wendy. AUA 103rd Annual Scientific Meeting news release. May 2008.

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