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Women's Health

December 2013

Kidney Stones: A Painful Reality for More Women

Your kidneys have an important job to do: They filter out waste chemicals from your blood. Those substances then leave your body through urination. Sometimes, they can build up and crystallize in your kidneys. The result is a potentially painful kidney stone.

Cleaning out chemicals

Your kidneys are normally able to effectively flush out chemicals, such as calcium and oxalate. But if those chemicals accumulate, they can bind together and form kidney stones. It’s more likely to happen if you aren’t taking in enough fluids. Another common cause is eating too much salt- or sugar-laden foods.

Kidney stones can vary in size and shape. Some may be so small they pass out of your body without notice. Others may be much larger—up to golf-ball size. If these larger stones have trouble leaving your body, they can block urine, causing sharp pain in your lower back, side, or stomach. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, and pain while urinating. Your urine may also turn dark yellow, bloody, or cloudy.

A recent survey of more than 12,000 U.S. adults found kidney stones are becoming a painful reality for more people. Nearly twice as many people reported having one, compared with the results of a similar 1994 survey. Women may be especially feeling the uptick. In another study, researchers reviewed 3 years’ worth of national hospital data. They found women received far more emergency care for kidney stones.

Obesity may be partly to blame for this increase in kidney stones. People who are obese tend to develop more kidney stones. So, too, do those with diabetes, particularly younger women. More Americans are struggling with these diseases.

Preventing kidney stones

Maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid kidney stones. What you eat matters, too.

Most kidney stones are made up of calcium or calcium oxalate. But that doesn’t mean you should limit your intake of calcium-rich foods. Instead, consuming more calcium will help keep those levels down in your urine.

Below are some additional ways to prevent kidney stones:

  • Drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated is the best way to prevent kidney stones. Strive for eight to 10 8-ounce cups a day. In warmer weather, be sure to drink even more.

  • Stay away from soda. The ingredients in soda, particularly sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, have been linked to kidney stones.

  • Cut back on foods that contain high amounts of sodium and oxalate. Some high-sodium foods include canned soups, deli meat, and prepackaged meals. You can find oxalate in spinach, rhubarb, and nuts.

  • Limit the amount of animal protein you eat. Foods like beef, chicken, and fish may contribute to kidney stones formed from uric acid, another common chemical in urine.

  • Talk with your doctor. He or she can prescribe certain medications that can help prevent future kidney stones.

Most kidney stones will pass through your urinary system and out of your body by themselves. Larger stones may require surgery to remove them. Medication can ease pain.


Click here to read more about kidney stones.


Online resources

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Kidney Stones in Adults

National Kidney Foundation – Kidney Stones

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