Thousands of people rush to seek emergency help each year due to presence of kidney stones. Medical research estimates that 1 in 9 adults may witness stone formation in kidneys at least once in their lifetime. Men are slightly more vulnerable than women. Conditions such as hypertension as well as obesity are known to increase the risks of kidney stone formation. Your caregiving team may prescribe medications for the treatment of these stones. But, can you use potassium citrate as part of your medication plan? It is essential to know more details on this front.

Stones in kidneys are hard substances made up of chemicals present in urine. Studies indicate that there are four distinctive types of kidney stones, namely – struvite, uric acid, cystine and calcium oxalate. Most of these stones may trigger discomforts such as painful lower back, increase in body temperature, abdominal conditions such as nausea, vomiting or indigestion. In some cases, shales or tremors, smelly urine, traces of blood in urine, etc. have also shown up.

Stones of very small size are discharged along with urine; you may not notice such a discharge as they do not cause much pain. However, there are larger sized stones (some may resemble a pebble or a ping-pong ball) which are likely to trigger a sharp pain. These pains may turn acute when stones block and hinder discharge of urine; storage of undischarged urine is often found in your bladder as well as kidneys.

Causes for the formation of calcium oxalate stones

The most common cause is not drinking ample amount of water. Those with a medical track record of such stones are more vulnerable. A few other causes includes being obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle with no workouts, intake of excessive amounts of sugars or salts. In some cases, a weight loss surgery or excessive workouts have also triggered stone formation.

Common forms of kidney stones

The two most common forms of stones are uric acid as well as calcium oxalate. Of these, uric acid bases stones occur in people who take organ meat, jellyfish and also among those who have a family history of such renal conditions. A key link between the intake of organ meat and formation of such stones is: these meats have a substance called purine in them. When you take copious amounts of this chemical (or foods laden with it), your body tends to make monosodium-urate.

On the other hand, calcium oxalate forms when your body has reduced supply of calcium. Those who do not drink ample amount of water may also witness such stones. Oxalate compounds present in urine combine with calcium to make these stones. There are two more rare forms of stones; these are struvite and cystine. The former is witnessed upon encountering infections in the upper tract of your urinary system.

What is potassium citrate?

The main use of this drug is to set right potassium imbalances in your body. It is a standard med administered when you have low levels of potassium in your blood. Lack of optimal level of potassium can lead to impairment of cardiac function, renal wellbeing as well as the central nervous system. People who are living with persistent spells of indigestion or diarrhea, vomiting and / or other conditions wherein you lose essential salts and minerals, may also have a low level of potassium. Moreover, people who are taking diuretics (also known as water pills) may also live with a suboptimal level of potassium. As a rare occurrence, a few hormonal conditions such as hyperaldosteronism (a marked increase in secretion of aldosterone) have also led to a significant change in potassium levels.

The aforesaid conditions can be treated with doses of potassium citrate. In some users, this drug may cause abdominal problems like stomach upset; you are hence advised to take it along with food.  Soon after consumption, never rest in a sleeping position for upto 15 minutes.  You are advised to take this drug on a daily basis for better results. No two people with potassium deficiency are prescribed with the same treatment plan. Your dosage plan may vary based on how well your body responds to the initial doses of potassium citrate; severity of potassium deficiency also influences your dosage strength.

Potassium citrate for calcium oxalate

This drug is used for the treatment of people living with kidney stones. However, it becomes essential to tell your treating physician if you are already living with hyperkalemia (or excessive levels of potassium in bloodstream), renal dysfunction (marked by altered output of urine, painful episodes of urination or traces of blood in urine), infectious conditions in your prostate or kidneys, blood sugar related problems or diabetes mellitus, ulcers on the abdominal walls, spells of dehydration (characterised by parched lips, dry skin or persistent spells of thirstiness) and intake of potassium sparing drugs such as triamterene or spironolactone.

Apart from the above, those who live with cardiac dysfunction, excessive presence of acids in body (a condition called acidosis) and conditions such as ulcerative colitis must inform their treating physician of such ailments. You must know that the use of this med is not recommended for children or younger adults – i.e., those aged less than 18 years. Also, women who are already pregnant as well as breastfeeding women must keep off from this drug as safety of its active ingredients is not fully evidenced.

Safe use of potassium citrate for treating calcium oxalate stones

This drug needs to be taken as per the instructions of your treating doctor. Based on your health condition your doctor may alter the dosage strength; adhere to all directions issued by your caregiver. It is a good practice to take this medication along with a meal. If you have not taken it with food, take it within 25 minutes from the time of having a meal. Your dietitian will advise a customised diet while you are taking potassium citrate. In this light, it is extremely important to know the foods you can consume and those you cannot. For instance, you may be asked to reduce the salt content in the foods you eat. Keep away from processed foods such as fried chips, wafers or other food products that may contain extra amount of salts in them.

It is a safe practice to take a lot of water while you are taking this treatment. As a precautionary measure, your physician may prescribe lab tests – mainly blood and urine samples related tests. It is a safe thing to go ahead as per the advice of your caregiving team. Your cardiac function also needs to be checked on a periodic basis. It is hence a good practice to opt for periodic electrocardiogram (ECG). If your medication plan already has the intake of potassium-based drugs, talk to your treating physician about such drugs. It is equally important to stay away from strenuous workouts or intensive exercises.

Precautions relating to the use of potassium citrate for treating calcium oxalate stones

People who are allergic to the active ingredients of potassium citrate must tell their doctor of such prior conditions. Those who live with internal bleeding, ulcers, persistent spells of vomiting or diarrhea must keep their caregiving team abreast of all such conditions. Upon encountering severe spells of loose stools or a watery discharge of stools owing to indigestion, it is highly recommended to seek medical attention at the quickest possible time.

You are advised not to take drugs such as water pills or diuretics, antidepressant meds and drugs to treat mood shifts or hallucinations, bronchodilators such as levalbuterol or albuterol, etc. It is a safe practice to tell your treating physician of all the drugs you are currently taking. Also, keep your doctor(s) informed of all treatment plans you are presently pursuing. It is essential to make a list of all meds you are using now; while you are making this list, make sure to add over the counter meds, prescription drugs, health supplements of vitamins, proteins or minerals such as iron, dietary aids, etc. Once you have shared this list, never make changes to it i.e., without the consent of your doctor and / or pharmacist.

Be wary of discomforts such as erratic heartbeats, quickened pulse rates, loss of coordination, excessive sweating, palpitations, passing out, etc. Upon sensing any of these conditions, it is highly important to seek clinical support from a healthcare setting like a clinic or a hospital. Those who are living in the US need to call the helpdesk of the food and drug administration (FDA) or dial 911 on an emergency basis. On the other hand, residents of Canada are urged to establish faster contact with Health Canada or reach out to a poison control unit working closer to where you live.

In sum, potassium citrate is used for treating kidney stones – especially, those caused by the build-up of calcium oxalate. But, if you are having any heart problems or are living with acidosis (extra levels of acids in blood), discharging watery stools and / or vomiting (owing to conditions like say, ulcerative colitis), your physician may advise not to take this drug. Also, children, teens as well as those aged below 18 years must not take this med. Last but not least, pregnant women and those who are nursing a newly born infant must be wary of the active ingredients of this med. Above all, it is essential to take needful guidance from your caregiver prior to starting doses of potassium citrate for treating kidney stones or calcium oxalate stones.

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