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Enteric Hyperoxaluria - An Overview

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Enteric hyperoxaluria is a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated oxalate levels in the urine leading to kidney stones. Read more.

Written by

Dr. Anjali

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ghulam Fareed

Published At July 18, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 2, 2024


Enteric hyperoxaluria is a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated oxalate levels in the urine due to increased oxalate absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. This condition is primarily caused by an underlying gastrointestinal disorder or surgery that disrupts normal oxalate metabolism. The incidence of enteric hyperoxaluria is not well-documented, and reliable epidemiological data specific to this condition is limited. However, it is recognized as a relatively rare disorder compared to other types of kidney stone disease. Enteric hyperoxaluria is considered a secondary form of hyperoxaluria, meaning it arises from underlying gastrointestinal disorders or surgeries that disrupt normal oxalate metabolism and absorption. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), short bowel syndrome, and certain gastrointestinal surgeries increase the risk of developing enteric hyperoxaluria.

What Are the Causes of Enteric Hyperoxaluria?

Enteric hyperoxaluria is primarily caused by underlying gastrointestinal disorders or surgeries that disrupt oxalate's normal metabolism and absorption. Here are the main causes of enteric hyperoxaluria:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Conditions such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can increase oxalate absorption in the colon, leading to elevated oxalate levels in the urine.

  • Gastrointestinal Surgeries: Certain surgeries, including gastric bypass surgery for weight loss, can affect the normal digestion and absorption of oxalate in the intestines. This can result in increased oxalate levels.

  • Short Bowel Syndrome: This condition occurs when a significant portion of the small intestine is surgically removed or not functioning properly. It can lead to malabsorption of oxalate and contribute to enteric hyperoxaluria.

  • Bowel Resection Surgeries: Surgeries that involve the removal of a part of the intestine, such as in cases of intestinal tumors or strictures, can disrupt oxalate absorption and metabolism, leading to hyperoxaluria.

  • Intestinal Malabsorption Disorders: Certain rare disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and celiac disease, can cause malabsorption of nutrients, including oxalate. This can result in increased oxalate levels in the urine.

What Are the Symptoms of Enteric Hyperoxaluria?

Enteric hyperoxaluria can manifest with various symptoms, primarily related to the formation of kidney stones and the potential impact on renal function. Here are the common symptoms associated with enteric hyperoxaluria:

A. Kidney Stones: The hallmark symptom of enteric hyperoxaluria is the development of kidney stones. These stones are formed when oxalate combines with calcium to create crystals that accumulate in the kidneys. The symptoms of kidney stones include:

1) Intense Pain: Severe pain in the lower back, abdomen, or sides.

2) Hematuria: Blood in the urine, which may appear pink, red, or brown.

3) Dysuria: Pain or discomfort during urination.

4) Frequency and Urgency: An increased need to urinate and a sense of urgency.

5) Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine: The urine may appear cloudy or have an unpleasant odor.

B. Recurrent Kidney Stones: Individuals with enteric hyperoxaluria often experience recurrent kidney stones, meaning they develop new stones over time. The frequency and size of kidney stone episodes can vary.

C. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): Prolonged exposure to high oxalate levels can lead to chronic kidney disease. CKD causes a progressive decline in kidney function over time, and it can result in complications such as fluid retention, electrolyte imbalances, and high blood pressure.

D. End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD): In severe cases, if enteric hyperoxaluria is left untreated or poorly managed, it can progress to end-stage renal disease.

How to Diagnose Enteric Hyperoxaluria?

Medical professionals will conduct various tests to diagnose enteric hyperoxaluria, including urine and blood tests. A 24-hour urine collection is used to measure oxalate levels and other stone-forming substances. Blood tests may be performed to assess kidney function and evaluate calcium and oxalate levels. Imaging tests, like ultrasound or CT (computed tomography) scans, can help identify the presence of kidney stones.

What Is the Treatment of Enteric Hyperoxaluria?

  • The treatment approach for enteric hyperoxaluria focuses on reducing oxalate levels and preventing the formation of kidney stones. Dietary modifications play a crucial role in managing this condition. Patients should limit their consumption of oxalate-rich foods, including spinach, rhubarb, beets, and chocolate. Adequate hydration is essential to promote urine dilution and reduce the risk of stone formation.

  • Calcium supplements may be prescribed as they bind to gut oxalate, preventing absorption. However, the dosage should be determined by a healthcare professional to avoid complications. Some patients benefit from the use of medications like potassium citrate or magnesium citrate, which can help prevent stone formation and reduce oxalate absorption.

  • In severe cases where conservative measures are ineffective or if there is significant kidney damage, medical interventions may be required. These interventions can include extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), a non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break kidney stones into smaller fragments for easier elimination. Surgical procedures, such as ureteroscopy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy, may be necessary to remove larger stones.

  • In rare instances, when enteric hyperoxaluria leads to end-stage renal disease, a kidney transplant may be considered. However, addressing the underlying gastrointestinal disorder or surgical cause is important before considering transplantation.

What Is the Prevention of Enteric Hyperoxaluria?

While underlying gastrointestinal disorders or surgeries may cause enteric hyperoxaluria, there are preventive measures. Here are some preventive strategies:

  • Manage Underlying Gastrointestinal Disorders: Proper management of gastrointestinal conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can help minimize the risk of enteric hyperoxaluria. Following prescribed treatment plans, including medications and lifestyle modifications, can help control inflammation and reduce oxalate absorption.

  • Dietary Modifications: Adopting a low-oxalate diet beneficial in preventing the formation of kidney stones. Limiting or avoiding high-oxalate foods such as spinach, rhubarb, beets, chocolate, and nuts can help reduce oxalate intake. However, consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian is important to ensure a well-balanced diet that meets nutritional needs.

  • Hydration: Maintaining adequate hydration is crucial in preventing kidney stone formation. Sufficient water intake helps dilute urine and reduce the concentration of stone-forming substances, including oxalate.

  • Medication Considerations: Healthcare professionals may prescribe medications to reduce the risk of stone formation or oxalate absorption for individuals at higher risk of enteric hyperoxaluria or recurrent kidney stones. Potassium citrate or magnesium citrate may be recommended to help prevent stone formation and lower oxalate levels. Follow the prescribed medication regimen and consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.

  • Regular Monitoring: Individuals with underlying gastrointestinal disorders or a history of gastrointestinal surgeries should undergo regular monitoring for early detection of enteric hyperoxaluria. This may involve urine tests to measure oxalate levels and imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT (computed tomography) scans, to identify kidney stone formation.


Enteric hyperoxaluria is a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated oxalate levels in the urine due to gastrointestinal disorders or surgeries. It can lead to kidney stone formation, chronic kidney disease, and even end-stage renal disease. Treatment involves dietary modifications, hydration, and, if necessary, medications or surgical interventions. Early diagnosis and right management are crucial in preventing kidney damage and improving patient outcomes.

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Dr. Ghulam Fareed
Dr. Ghulam Fareed

Medical Gastroenterology


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