Kidney Stones in Women

The kidneys are filters for the blood. In fact, if they fail, one will notice rapidly by the distinct odor of urine. Sometimes kidney stones occur. These are calcium oxalate crystals or other types of crystals which typically occur from magnesium deficiency or other metabolic problems due to parathyroid issues or other disorders. These stones are painful and, as they break apart and travel down the ureters to the bladder, the pain is often blinding, like glass.

Types of Kidney Stones Women Can Get

Frequently, kidney stones are calcium crystals. However, they can be composed of other substances.

  • Calcium stones are the most common type, which can be made of phosphate, calcium oxalate or maleate. It all has to do with calcium elimination issues. Reducing your intake of foods high in oxalate, such as potato chips, beets, chocolate, peanuts, and spinach may be of help.
  • Uric acid stones are less common in women than in men, which occur when there is too much acid in urine. People with gout or going through chemotherapy are likely to get this.
  • Struvite stones are common in women suffering urinary tract infections. Women with chronic urinary tract infections produce some interesting metabolites and minerals to buffer irritating acids. Struvite stones result and become deposited in the kidneys. They are multiple and can be particularly painful.
  • Cystine stones are extremely rare and difficult to detect. They occur in both men and women and are the result of a rare genetic issue called cystinuria.

Kidney Symptoms in Women

Symptoms of kidney stones in women are similar to those in men. Typically, the pain is in the back and there will be blood in the urine. The pain can be blinding, agonizing, and disabling regardless of gender.

The stones themselves, though they do form in the kidneys, don’t cause the pain. It is when they break down into smaller shards and begin to pass through the ureters that the pain begins. Then comes the presence of stones in the bladder and the passage through the urethra. For women, this is an inch passage. Movement of stones can cause the following:

  • Rapid onset pain, which worsens in waves, intensifying like rock music, in the abdomen, genitals, groin, sides, or the back and the pain is often described as the worst ever experienced in one's life.
  • Nausea and vomiting due to extreme nature of pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urination will become frequent and urgent. It will be painful as the body is trying to push out the stones through the spasms of the urethra. Urinary tract infections may accompany this and make the pain more severe.

When Kidney Stones Can Be a Problem?

When kidney stones in women or men are small, they will pass without intervention. 90% of kidney stones that are less than 5mm will pass on their own. When they are larger, the odds of painless passing lessen (50%) and infection risks increase.

Sometimes larger stones make it out of the kidney into the ureters but don’t make it to the bladder to actually come out of the urethra, thus blocking urinary flow. This is a medical problem which results in blood in the urine and intense pain. Urinary obstruction is no joke and could result in kidney damage. It requires medical attention, but many physicians can remedy the situation with surgery and some amazing sonic techniques. Primarily, concerns will be focused on watching for nephritis; a kidney infection. Signs of infection include:

  • Elevated body temperature over 100.5 degrees F
  • Chills and shivering
  • Persistent weakness and fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Foul-smelling and dark or cloudy urine

How Are Kidney Stones in Women Treated?

The type of treatment depends on the type of kidney stones involved. Urine is collected to determine the stone type and this defines treatment options. Ultrasounds and other tests will be used as well. Primarily, hydration will be advised to promote optimal urine flow, as chronic dehydration is a strongly contributing factor. Other treatments include:

1.       Medications

  • If infection is present, antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Allopurinol may be prescribed to dissolve uric acid stones.
  • To increase urination, diuretics may be prescribed.
  • Bicarbonate of sodium or sodium citrate
  • Solutions of phosphorus

2.       Lithotripsy

This is where ultrasonic sound waves are used to break larger stones into smaller stones so that the stones will naturally pass. There may be bruising to other organs. Pain medications and antibiotics will be prescribed accordingly.

3.       Tunnel Surgery (Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy)

For this procedure, a small incision will be made in your back and the stones will be removed that way. This invasive procedure is used in cases when stones are too large to pass naturally, where stones are interfering with or damaging kidneys, and when pain levels can't be effectively controlled.

4.       Ureteroscopy

An ureteroscope is a small tool that can be used to help dislodge kidney stones in women that may be stuck. Using a small camera, doctors can see where the stone is stuck, and then they can use a cage-like instrument to remove it.

Is There a Way to Prevent It?

Luckily, you can reduce the likelihood of developing kidney stones with some healthy lifestyle changes. Since stones build in the kidneys – the area of the body responsible for flushing out toxins – you can start by making sure they keep doing their job by increasing intake of the right minerals while decreasing the wrong ones.

  • Drink plenty of water daily. Water is vital. The more water you drink, the better your kidneys can filter the minerals and acids in your body and prevent kidney stones. Experts recommend drinking 12 glasses everyday to pass the recommended 2.5 liters of urine, ensuring your kidneys are flushed.
  • Eat less salt and reduce animal proteins. Since we know animal proteins contribute to kidney stones and salt does too, try a mostly vegetarian diet and reduce your salt intake while increasing your fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium, but be careful with calcium supplements. Though calcium stones are related to calcium elimination issues, eating foods rich in calcium wouldn't increase your risk. However, with calcium supplements, you should consult your doctor before doing so as they might increase your risks of getting kidney stones.
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