Climate change in the coming decades could lead to an increase in cases of kidney stones that would bring huge costs to healthcare systems, according to research by scientists in the United States.
A study, published this week in Scientific Reports, found that even if measures are put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there would still be a rise in cases of the painful condition.
A research team from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia knew from previous studies that high temperatures and dehydration increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
With this latest study, the scientists sought to project how climate change will impact the burden of kidney stone disease on healthcare systems in the future, reported The Independent newspaper.
Kidney stone disease is caused by hard deposits of minerals that develop in concentrated urine and cause pain when passing through the urinary tract. The researchers said incidence of the condition has increased in the last 20 years.
The scientists created a model to estimate the impact of heat on future kidney stone presentations in the southeastern US state of South Carolina, which has a higher incidence of kidney stone disease.
The model predicted that the number of cases will increase between 2.2 percent and 3.9 percent by the year 2089, depending on projected daily temperatures under two climate change scenarios.
In the first scenario, greenhouse gas emissions are cut to an intermediate level as humans shift to using lower-emissions sources of energy, while in the second, emissions continue at the current rate.
In the first scenario, average temperatures increase by 2.3 C by 2100, compared with 3.6 C in the second. These projections were taken from studies made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In comments with a news release, Gregory E Tasian, a urologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and senior author of the study, said: "While it is impossible to predict with certainty how future policies will slow or hasten greenhouse gas emission and anthropogenic climate change, and to know exactly what future daily temperatures will be, our analysis suggests that a warming planet will likely cause an increased burden of kidney stone disease on healthcare systems.
"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.
"As paediatric researchers, we have a duty to explore the burden of climate change on human health, as the children of today will be living this reality in the future."