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Hyperoxaluria is a medical condition characterized by the presence of high levels of oxalate in the urine. Oxalate is a natural substance found in many foods, and it is also produced by the body. However, when oxalate levels become too high, it can lead to the formation of kidney stones, which can cause severe pain and discomfort. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for hyperoxaluria.

Kidney Stones: A Painful Consequence

Kidney stones are one of the most common complications of hyperoxaluria. These small, hard deposits form in the kidneys and can cause excruciating pain when they pass through the urinary tract. The symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood in urine

It is important to note that not everyone with hyperoxaluria will develop kidney stones. However, those who do may experience recurrent stone formation, leading to chronic pain and potential complications.

Understanding the Causes

Hyperoxaluria can be classified into two types: primary and secondary. Primary hyperoxaluria is a rare genetic disorder that affects the liver’s ability to metabolize oxalate properly. As a result, excessive amounts of oxalate are produced and excreted in the urine. Secondary hyperoxaluria, on the other hand, is caused by underlying medical conditions or dietary factors that increase oxalate levels.

Primary Hyperoxaluria

Primary hyperoxaluria is a hereditary condition that is usually diagnosed in childhood. It is caused by mutations in specific genes that are responsible for the production of enzymes involved in oxalate metabolism. Without these enzymes, oxalate cannot be effectively broken down, leading to its accumulation in the body.

Secondary Hyperoxaluria

Secondary hyperoxaluria can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Intestinal diseases: Conditions such as Crohn’s disease or short bowel syndrome can disrupt the normal absorption of oxalate in the intestines, leading to increased levels in the urine.
  • Dietary factors: Consuming foods that are high in oxalate, such as spinach, rhubarb, and chocolate, can contribute to elevated oxalate levels.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics or antacids, can increase the risk of developing hyperoxaluria.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for hyperoxaluria, there are several treatment options available to manage the condition and prevent complications:

Dietary Modifications

One of the primary approaches to managing hyperoxaluria is making dietary changes to reduce oxalate intake. This may involve avoiding or limiting foods that are high in oxalate, such as spinach, beets, and nuts. Increasing calcium intake can also help bind to oxalate in the intestines, preventing its absorption into the bloodstream.


In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help reduce oxalate levels in the urine. This can include medications that bind to oxalate, preventing its absorption, or medications that inhibit the production of oxalate in the body.

Fluid Intake

Staying well-hydrated is crucial for individuals with hyperoxaluria. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help dilute the concentration of oxalate in the urine and reduce the risk of stone formation.

Surgical Intervention

In severe cases of hyperoxaluria, where kidney stones are causing significant complications, surgical intervention may be necessary. This can involve procedures such as lithotripsy, which uses shock waves to break up kidney stones, or surgical removal of larger stones.

It is important for individuals with hyperoxaluria to work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and risk factors.


Hyperoxaluria is a condition characterized by high levels of oxalate in the urine, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones. While there is no cure for hyperoxaluria, it can be effectively managed through dietary modifications, medication, fluid intake, and, in severe cases, surgical intervention. By understanding the causes and treatment options for hyperoxaluria, individuals can take proactive steps to prevent complications and improve their quality of life.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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