Less than three million patients ages 15 and older in the United States were found by physicians and hospital outpatient specialists to have kidney stones in the year 2000.(1) Among children, the incidence is equally low: 177,000 hospital discharges in 2000, 184,000 in 2005, and 135,000 in 2007.
When compared to the U.S. rate of incidence for kidney stones, a number of other first-world countries come in at a higher rate such as Germany, Spain, and Sweden.(2) However, there are all sorts of regional variances that come into play, both domestically and abroad, depending on what residents or workers are exposed to.
For example, the rate of incidence in 1986 for kidney stones for uranium mining workers in East Tennessee was an astonishing 18.5%. The only thing that came close to that level was the rate of 15% for the regions of Greece and Thebes.
The highest incidence of kidney stones in the U.S. belongs to Caucasian males while the lowest rate is claimed by Asian women. In recent decades, however, an alarming trend has been the steady increase in kidney stones among African-American men ages 60 to 74. Their exposure to the condition has essentially doubled.
Researchers agree that the diet has the most direct influence on the incidence of kidney stone formation. As far back as the 16th century, European stonecutters were found to have experienced a jump because of more starch in their food. Today, the modernization of agriculture and sophistication of food processing methods has led to an epidemic of obesity. Diminished fluid and calcium consumption are two risk factors for kidney stones. So are, conversely, the increased intake of sodium and animal protein.
In the longer term, scientists are predicting very serious increases in kidney stone incidence rates worldwide because of global climate change factors. By 2095, these experts predict that a whopping 70% of the world’s population will be living in high-risk areas for the condition.
(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – National Kidney and Urological Diseases, Retrieved October 3, 2011 from http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/kustats/
(2) Wale Forest University School of Medicine – “Kidney Stones: A Global Picture of Prevalence, Incidence and Associated Risk Factors”, Retrieved October 3, 2011 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931286/