Kidney stones in women are a serious issue that can cause discomfort at best or incredible pain at worst. (Can you relate?) Fortunately, one of the best means of preventing them is to become informed, as doing so will not only help with prevention but will also help select the best treatment option. If you are a woman who is curious about what causes kidney stones, as well as about any factors or circumstances unique to women, read on for a brief overview of the essential facts.
Kidney stones result when minerals normally found in urine solidify in the kidneys, organs which remove waste products from the blood. The wastes are normally excreted, but in this instance the urinary system has been overloaded and the unprocessed wastes form into stones. Sometimes these stones are small enough that they are picked up and passed normally. (I wish mine were small!) At others, they become large and create other complications.
For instance, the stone may break free from the kidney only to become lodged in the ureter, the tube that moves waste products into the bladder. If these wastes remain in the kidney due to being blocked, they can result in infections which cause permanent damage. Not good.
Kidney stones in women are somewhat less common than they are in men, though gender is just one of several risk factors. Diets low on water tend to promote waste crystallization more, as water helps the body process wastes more effectively. Similarly, increased hydration can help pass some smaller stones, in addition to eliminating a prime risk factor. Other dietary conditions, such as high proteins or low intakes of fruits and vegetables, also contribute to higher occurrences of kidney stones. With all these bad habits, you can see why so many of us are getting them these days.
One common symptom of kidney stones is pain in the lower abdomen. Unfortunately, one complication of kidney stones in women is that similar pains can be experienced before or during menstruation, and these pains may make it difficult to distinguish that caused by kidney stones from normal, monthly cramps. To determine whether cramps are in fact kidney stone pain, pay particular attention to whether they are followed by other symptoms such as a fever, loss of appetite, urinary disorders or other health problems associated with stones. If these symptoms appear, speak with your doctor as soon as possible.
Another issue women face is that most kidney stones are calcium-based, and calcium supplements for osteoporosis or other medical conditions increase their likelihood. Studies suggest that if supplements are eliminated in favor of a calcium-rich diet, the risks can be dramatically reduced. As there is no solid consensus on these studies, they should be taken with a grain of salt, and you should speak with your physician and do your own research before making such dietary and medical changes.
While kidney stones are a serious issue, treating them is very doable. In many instances, dietary changes and painkillers are enough to both pass them and reduce their likelihood of forming again. In others, a procedure performed under local anesthesia uses ultrasound waves to break larger stones into smaller ones, which the previously-mentioned changes can likely pass. Only in extreme circumstances is surgery necessary, and the procedure is incredibly safe. Even so, by effectively managing a healthy diet and remaining well hydrated, the largest risk factors can be easily controlled and minimized.
Watch out for my next post, where I’ll go into a little more detail about detection, symptoms, and popular treatments.