Men still take the lead for suffering from kidney stones, but rising obesity rates and changes in diet may explain why women are catching up.
For healthy adults, normal kidney function eliminates minerals not used by the body through the urine. Kidney stones are the result of those excess minerals hardening and remaining in the kidney. More than half a million people seek treatment for kidney stones every year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
There are several different types of kidney stones, including:
- Calcium stones—the most common
- Cystine stones—result from a rare hereditary disorder called cystinuria, which causes an amino acid to leak into urine through the kidneys
- Struvite stones—may form after urinary tract infections
- Uric acid stones—caused by high uric acid levels in urine
Some stones are small enough to pass through urine, or they may remain in the kidneys without causing problems. However, larger stones that travel from the kidney to the ureter and into the bladder can be very painful, particularly if the stone blocks the flow of urine. Larger stones may need to be broken up by a specialist before they can be passed in the urine.
Address Kidney Stone Risk Factors
While there is no specific reason why men are slightly more prone to kidney stones than women, eating a diet high in animal protein and sodium may be a contributing factor. Follow these tips to reduce your risk for kidney stones.
- Avoid sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. High fructose consumption increases kidney stone risk.
- Drink mostly water—at least 12 cups per day. Try drinking one glass before bed to limit crystal formation at night.
- Eat more vegetables and fruit and less animal protein to reduce urine acidity.
- Limit foods high in sodium, such as french fries, canned soup, sandwich meat, packaged meals and sports drinks.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.