More kidney stone disease projected due to global warming

Jul 14, 2008

Global warming is likely to increase the proportion of the population affected by kidney stones by expanding the higher-risk region known as the "kidney-stone belt" into neighboring states, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and UT Dallas have found.

Dehydration is one of the risk factors linked to kidney-stone disease, and the paper suggests global warming will exacerbate this effect. The researchers predict that by 2050, higher temperatures will cause an additional 1.6 million to 2.2 million kidney-stone cases, representing up to a 30 percent growth in some areas.

"This study is one of the first examples of global warming causing a direct medical consequence for humans," said Dr. Margaret Pearle, professor of urology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the paper, which appears in today's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"There is a known geographic variation in stone disease that has been attributed to regional differences in temperature," said Dr. Pearle. "When people relocate from areas of moderate temperature to areas with warmer climates, a rapid increase in stone risk has been observed. This has been shown in military deployments to the Middle East for instance."

Kidney-stone disease, or nephrolithiasis, is a common ailment. Kidney stones, which are solid crystals that form from dissolved minerals in urine, can be caused by both environmental and metabolic problems. Low volume of urine directly increases stone risk by increasing the concentration of stone-forming salts. They can arise from either taking in too little fluid or losing too much through dehydration.

Kidney-stones are more common in the warmer parts of the U.S. The Southeast is known as the "kidney-stone belt" because of the high incidence of kidney stones in the population living in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

To forecast climate change, Dr. Tom Brikowski, lead author of the study and associate professor of geosciences at UT Dallas, used models of global warming obtained from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, in which predicted temperature increases are based on expectations of future greenhouse gases.

Using two studies that reported kidney-stone rates in various geographic regions and correlating regional stone rates with local mean annual temperatures, the investigators were able to derive two mathematical models relating temperature to kidney-stone risk. Both models of kidney-stone risk predicted that the current kidney-stone belt will expand with global warming, although the exact extent and location of the change was different. One model predicted that the increase will be concentrated in the southern half of the country, while the other model pointed to an increase in the upper Midwest. Taking into account the estimated future populations in those areas, increased temperatures are predicted to cause 1 million to 2 million more cases of kidney-stone disease.

"Obviously, this escalation is a problem when considering the costs associated with treating kidney-stone disease," said co-author Dr. Yair Lotan, assistant professor of urology at UT Southwestern. "Nationwide, the cost of treating these new kidney-stone cases could rise as high as $1 billion."

Similar climate-related changes in the prevalence of kidney-stone disease can be expected in other stone belts worldwide. Dr. Pearle and her colleagues plan to conduct future studies to understand the exact correlation of urine volume with environmental temperature.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Explore further: First successful vaccination against 'mad cow'-like wasting disease in deer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

User comments : 10

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

thinking
2.6 / 5 (7) Jul 14, 2008
Give me a break.... now global warming linked to kidney stones... you got to be kidding....

lets link everything to global warming.... we can get funding that way.
sheber
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2008
I didn't take the article to say it was linking kidney stones to global warming except through dehydration. I've lived in the south and I've had kidney stones. I will be drinking more water!
NotParker
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 15, 2008
Warming stopped in 1998. It was a natural cycle. Now we are in a cooling cycle.

That authors of this study should rewrite it based on facts ... not scaremongering.
GrayMouser
3 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2008
The link between kidney stones and fluid consumption has been around for years (decades even.)

The link to the, mythical, global warming appears more to be a case of riding the current panic to get more funding.
Mercury_01
3 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2008
Oh God, I think Im passing a stone already!, Wait, no, I think global warming gave me the clap!
Towchain
3 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2008
If the Climate Change report is correct then half of these states will be underwater by 2050. Dehydration problem solved!
jburchel
3 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2008
Great comments! Global Warming gave me the clap! hahahaha Looks like the 3 liberals running PhysOrg.com (and the 3 million running the "climate change" bureaucracies and "scientific" establishment around the world) are not brainwashing people as much as they would like. That is encouraging. Science will always survive the "scientists".
Mercury_01
3 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2008
Dont get too encouraged, Im only joking about global warming because I believe climate change really is being caused in part by humans, and that there really is a point of no return where we cant reverse the effects. not too funny, but what can we do but laugh?
jburchel
3 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2008
I'm not encouraged just because I thought you believe exactly what I do (which is, that man-made detrimental climate change is a massive hoax created for political and financial gain primarily by corrupt idiots). But a big first step in people waking up to the lie is when people start laughing at it. Eventually it will be debunked entirely just like so many pop fads before it.
Egnite
not rated yet Jul 30, 2008
Who was the person to discover/invent global warming? If it's a resputable scientist/weatherman I'd prolly give the idea some consideration. But if it were a politician I'd take whatever he said with a large pinch of salt.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.