Struvite kidney stones are one of the least common types of kidney stones. Only 10-15% of kidney stones are made of struvite. Most kidney stones are made from calcium. Specifically, calcium oxalate stones are most common and make up about 80% of kidney stones.
Struvite kidney stones are exclusively related to urinary tract infections. Because of this, struvite stones are also known as “infection stones” or “infection calculi”.
Urinary tract infections are much more common in women, therefore struvite stones are also about twice as common in women.
Struvite stones are usually composed of a variety of minerals, but are characterized by magnesium ammonium phosphate.
Like other kidney stone types (e.g., calcium phosphate stones, calcium kidney stones, and uric acid stones), struvite stones can form in the kidney or bladder. The prevention of struvite stones is the same no matter where the stone is formed. Treatment options may be different depending on the stone’s location.
What Causes Struvite Stones?
Struvite kidney stones formation is caused as a result of infection. Specifically, urinary tract infections are the main cause of struvite kidney stones.
Urinary tract bacterial infections are caused by bacterial overgrowth in the urine. Certain bacteria can make a group of enzymes called “ureases”. Specifically, proteus, klebsiella, pseudomonas, mycoplasma and staphylococcus bacteria can make these enzymes.
These enzymes break down urea in your urine into ammonium and carbon dioxide. This reaction creates the perfect conditions for carbonate and struvite to precipitate out of urine and form struvite stones.
If left untreated, struvite stones can be very serious. Because they grow so quickly, they can get very big and block the collecting system to the kidney. There is about a 50% chance of losing a kidney if struvite stones are not treated. Kidney damage can also occur.
Struvite Stones Treatment
The first line of struvite stones treatment is to treat the urinary tract infection itself. Reducing the amount of bacteria is the only way to stop struvite stones from getting bigger and more from forming. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat the infection and get rid of the bacteria.
Low levels of acid (or, alkaline) urine is a risk factor for struvite stones. Your doctor may prescribe medications or vitamins (such as vitamin C) to acidify your urine (lower urine pH) make struvite stones less likely to come back as part of treatment.
There is no food or supplement that will dissolve struvite kidney stones. If you have any type of kidney stone, go see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will be able to determine the best way to treat your kidney stone. Treatment depends on kidney stone type, size and location. In some cases, the best treatment is to let the kidney stone pass. Your doctor will help make you as comfortable as possible while the stone passes.
Struvite Stones Prevention
Preventing struvite stones depends on preventing urinary tract infections. The best way to prevent struvite stones is to prevent urinary tract infections from developing in the first place.
Here are some tips to prevent a UTI, which will reduce your risk of most struvite kidney stones.
- Drink plenty of water (increasing fluid intake)
- Wear cotton underwear
- Empty your bladder when you feel the urge to urinate (Frequent urination)
- Wipe from front to back after urinating
- Urinate before and after sexual intercourse
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have
- Avoid douches and scented feminine products
- If you have diabetes, keeping blood sugar under control
Note that the evidence supporting cranberry juice (or pills) for UTI prevention is mixed. Cranberry juice contains a large amount of sugar and calories. Ask your doctor what is best for you!
Struvite Stones Diet
Struvite stones are almost exclusively a result of urinary tract infections, and are not associated with nutrition. However, if you do have any type of kidney stone, it is a good idea to drink plenty of water!
Struvite Stones Summary
Struvite kidney stones are rare, but can cause severe health risks such as the loss of a kidney. Quick medical treatment is very important to prevent harm from struvite kidney stones.
Urinary tract infections are the primary cause of struvite kidney stones. The best way to prevent struvite kidney stones is to prevent UTIs from developing.