Kidney Stones in men were more heard of than in women. But the number of women with kidney stones has considerably increased in the past 10 years. Records have shown that kidney stones affect 9% of women by the age of 70 years. This can be attributed to modernisation and global awareness ultimately leading to higher living standards with many lifestyle changes that women are equally exposed to, alongside men. Some of such changing lifestyle habits that can contribute to the cause of kidney stones in women are :
- Sedentary working conditions
- Work pressure
- Poor time management
- Diet changes such as easy to eat packed foods
- Highly sugared/salted and preserved foods
- More frequent dining in restaurants
- Fast foods and high fat foods
- Alcohol consumption
The rise of obesity in women compared to men has significantly affected health of women in their middle age. Obesity that sets in during midlife of a woman, seems to be one of the risk factors for the development of kidney stones.Many women go through changes in their body and health during their middle age. The most obvious shift is menopause. During these years, women also have chances of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. All of these changes can increase the possibilities for a woman to have urological health issues. These include kidney and bladder problems such as urinary tract infections, incontinence and kidney stones.
Kidney stones may begin developing in the urinary tract and can continue to grow and change location within the kidney. Stones often begin to show symptoms when they restrict urine flow from the kidney to the bladder which is often very painful. Symptoms of kidney stones in women are much like those in men except that at times, such symptoms may be confused with menstrual cramps, hormonal imbalances or Lumbago.
- Pain in the back, abdomen or pelvis
- Pain or burning sensation while urinating
- Urgent frequent need to urinate
- Passing blood in the urine
- Cloudy or foul smelling urine
- Insufficient flow of urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and shivers.
A woman who has had a kidney stone has a 50 % chance of getting another one sooner or later. As always advised by doctors, the best way to avoid getting another stone is by drinking plenty of fluids and keeping oneself hydrated. Some of the must do, to protect oneself from recurrent kidney stones are:
- Drink 10 glasses of 10-ounce liquid per day(Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks)
- Reduce sodium intake in the diet. High sodium increases mineral levels in the urine, which can increase the risk of kidney stones.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Consume3 to 4 servings of calcium-rich products a day. calcium in the diet can protect against stones.
According to an urological study, on examination of postmenopausal women and incidental kidney stones, it was revealed that metabolic changes during menopause alters urine composition and increase kidney stone risk. The same study concluded as “Postmenopausal status is associated with a higher risk of incident kidney stones. Natural menopause and surgical menopause are independently associated with higher risk. There are small but significant differences in urine composition between pre-menopausal and postmenopausal urine collections”. Ref – J Urol. 2018 Oct;200(4):823-828
There are studies that demonstrate the inter-relevance between menopause, osteoporosis and the incidence of kidney stones. Postmenopausal women excrete more amounts of calcium leading to osteoporosis. Calcium supplementation in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis also reduced the risk of kidney stone formation as compared to postmenopausal women with no calcium supplementation. Women of younger age and have undergone surgical menopause such as a complete hysterectomy are at a greater risk of developing kidney stones.
In a survey consisting of women of menopausal age, women who did not have any kidney stones had the highest intake of fibre, fruits and vegetables and lower sugar intake. This makes it very evident that healthy eating habits positively contribute towards stone free life. On the other hand,unfortunately, even women who have already had stones did not put in efforts to lower their risk of getting them again by following a diet rich in fibre, fruits and vegetables. So,it is vital for pre/postmenopausal women to choose wisely their food and follow eating habits that in the long run would help them stay fit and stone free.
One other major physiological change during the reproductive years of a woman is pregnancy and child birth.Women who have had kidney stones have described the pain of passing a stone as second to labour pains. This explains how depressing and disturbing it would be to experience passing a stone for a pregnant woman. Kidney stones in pregnancy can be highly disturbing due to the pain, special diet requirements and restrictions in immediate treatment options. For every 1500 pregnant women, there is a chance for one of them to have kidney stones.
Kidney stones are common during the second and third trimester of pregnancy due to various changes in the body. The growing foetus exerts pressure on the urinary bladder, urging frequent urination. To avoid frequenting the restroom, the pregnant mother may avoid fluid intake. Over a period of time, if there is not much fluid to flush excess minerals out of the body, the situation may lead to accumulation of minerals and formation of kidney stones.
Pregnant women with kidney stones experience non-obstetric abdominal pain. This is clinically presented as “renal colic” which is a flank pain that can radiate up to the groin. Other symptoms are nausea, vomiting, difficulty in passing urine and at times, blood in the urine. Kidney stones may also present as preterm labour or uterine contractions.
Clinically, renal stones do get misdiagnosed as appendicitis, diverticulitis or placental abruption. Often in pregnancy, it is difficult to differentiate between physiological changes from pathological developments. Moreover, the pregnant mother can be subjected only to certain investigation procedures and treatment techniques. Hence, early diagnosis and immediate treatment for kidney stones in pregnant women becomes challenging. Primary concern in the diagnosis and successful treatment of kidney stones is maintaining safety, with little risk to the pregnant mother or foetus.
Most kidney stones pass through without much technical intervention, especially if they are smaller. Larger stones may require invasive procedures. If left untreated, kidney stones can lead to premature delivery or interfere with normal labour and natural birthing, which could risk a medical threat to the baby.Treatment of kidney stones in pregnancy may include bed rest, pain relievers and getting enough fluids.Minimal invasive techniques such as using a ureteroscope into the bladder and kidney to remove or break up a stone may be considered by urologists if the size, location or number of stones is posing health risks to the mother or the foetus.