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Semin Nephrol. 2003 Jan;23(1):77-87.

Renal stones in the tropics.

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  • 1Institute of Urology and Nephrology, University College London, London, UK.


Urolithiasis is a problem that is generally increasing in the tropics as it is in most Western countries. There are 2 main types of the disorder-bladder stones in children, a form of the disorder that disappeared from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and upper urinary tract stones in adults. The former has been decreasing in most countries in the so-called endemic bladder stone belt with gradual improvements in levels of nutrition. However, as living standards increase, particularly in the urban areas of the more affluent developing countries, so the incidence of upper urinary tract stones in adults is increasing. The types of stones formed depend mainly on the composition of urine, which, in turn, reflects the type of diet consumed in the countries concerned. The main factor that leads to the formation of bladder stones in children is a nutritionally poor diet that is low in animal protein, calcium, and phosphate, but high in cereal and is acidogenic. This leads to the formation of urine with a relatively high content of ammonium and urate ions and consequently to the formation of ammonium acid urate crystals and stones. In countries where there is also a high intake of oxalate from local leaves and vegetables, urinary oxalate is increased and, as a result, the ammonium acid urate stones often contain calcium oxalate as well. The stone problem in the tropics is compounded by low urine volumes resulting in some areas from poor drinking water, which causes chronic diarrhea, and in others from the hot climate and fluid losses through the skin. As nutrition improves in these countries, the formation of bladder stones gives way to upper urinary tract stones consisting of calcium oxalate, often mixed with calcium phosphate or uric acid, such as are formed in most Western countries.

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