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Global heating could lead to an increase in kidney stone disease, study finds


Rising temperatures due to the climate crisis will lead to a rise in people suffering from kidney stones – a painful medical condition exacerbated by heat and dehydration, according to a new study.

Researchers used two climate scenarios to estimate the burden of heat and humidity related kidney stone disease by the end of the century in South Carolina – a state in the south-east US, a region which currently has a higher than average incidence rate.

In the US, about one in 10 people suffers from kidney stones at some point, and the incidence increases from north to south.

According to researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Chop), the number of cases will increase between 2.2% and 3.9% depending on whether greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate or are cut to an intermediate level, leading to a huge rise in health costs either way.

Kidney stones are caused by hard deposits of minerals (mostly calcium) that develop in concentrated urine which are extremely painful when passing through the urinary tract. The incidence of the condition has escalated over the past two decades, particularly among people of color, women and adolescents.

Diet and lifestyle changes have contributed to the rise in the condition, but prior research has demonstrated that high ambient temperatures increase the risk. The number of people seeking medical help for kidney stones escalates following very hot days when the risk of dehydration multiplies.

“With climate change, we don’t often talk about the impact on human health, particularly when it comes to children, but a warming planet will have significant effects on human health,” said Gregory Tasian, a pediatric urologist at Chop and senior author of the study published in Scientific Reports.

In the first scenario modeled, the average temperature would increase by 2.3C by 2100, compared with 3.6C in the second. Results from a wide range of climate model studies suggest average temperature could be 1.1C to 5.4C warmer by the end of the century.



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