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Medullary Sponge Kidney Disorder
May 2002

Q. My nephrologist suggested that one beer per day would decrease my kidney stones (medullary sponge kidney disorder). Is there any current research to support this? If indeed this is helpful prevention, is it the alcohol, hops, or another component of the beer that prevents it? Would an alcohol-free beer produce the same results?

A. In about half the cases of kidney stones, the affected person will only have a single episode in a lifetime. The majority of stones are small and pass spontaneously, but if the stones are large and obstructing the kidney, treatment is often difficult. Methods include the shockwave treatments like you have had (lithotripsy) and other surgical methods. In cases of recurrent or severe stones, additional diagnostic tests are needed to look for a cause that can treated to prevent a recurrence. For example blood tests and urine collections can be done to see if excess calcium or uric acid is being filtered by the kidneys. Your doctor can evaluate which tests would be helpful. High water intake is needed by all kidney stone patients to keep the urine dilute. There are indeed published reports that beer drinkers have a lower risk of stones. Whether this is advisable in your case I will defer to you and your doctor to decide!

Medullary sponge kidney is an uncommon disorder in which numerous small pouches (cysts) form in the collecting area of the kidney. These pouches will show up on an x-ray image as little shadows, giving the kidney a sponge-like appearance. The cause is unknown. About 90% of cases never have symptoms and are discovered by accident when imaging studies are done for other reasons. Complications can occur, most commonly kidney infection and kidney stones, both of which can be quite painful. The cause of pain in other cases is not understood. The following references include more information on the condition and a support group available on the internet.





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