Kidney stones in women are reportedly on the rise, researchers say. Obesity is a risk factor for kidney stones, and as obesity rises, incidence of kidney does as well. Since obesity is more of a contributing factor in women than in men, the effects of this increase are more often felt by women. The good news is that improved diagnostic and treatment techniques mean fewer patients—man or women—need to be admitted to the hospital for kidney stones; they can be treated on an outpatient basis.
The cause of kidney stones is high levels of calcium, phosphorous, and other substances that form crystals in the urine. Calcium and oxalate are the most common culprits, and are found in many foods. Chocolate and nuts are sources of oxalate, but it’s also produced in the liver; calcium is found in dairy foods. A diet high in animal proteins is also associated with the formation of kidney stones. In addition to obesity, risk factors include a family history of kidney stones, dehydration, a diet high in sodium, and digestive diseases. In addition, risk of kidney stones increases with age, occurring most often in adults over age 40.
There are things you can do to control your risk. Make sure to drink enough water, and beware of excess sodium. If you take calcium or vitamin C or D supplements, let your doctor know so that you can be monitored. Calcium-rich foods are usually safe, though foods with oxalates can cause problems, so if you are prone to kidney stones, be wary of chocolate, nuts, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, tea, and soy products.
The treatment for small stones generally involves waiting it out, drinking lots of fluids to pass it and taking pain medication for when you do. Larger stones require more drastic measures, because there’s a risk of a blockage causing permanent kidney damage. One technique is shock wave lithotripsy, in which an ultrasound-like device creates vibrations that break the stone into smaller pieces which can go through the urethra. These then pass the way smaller stones do.