Kidney stones are rather common among American women. Recent data suggest that about 10% of American women are affected by kidney stones. A kidney stone is a rock hard mass that develops from different salt crystals that are excreted in the urine. In normal women, urine contains chemicals that prevent the formations of stones, so how do kidney stones form and how can they cause symptoms?
The main function of the human kidney is excretion of water and salts that exceed the body requirements. When the concentration of certain salts increases markedly, they become no longer soluble and remain in their crystalline non-soluble form. It is just like when you try to dissolve a large amount of salt in a glass of water. After the water is saturated with salt, you can’t dissolve more salt and it will precipitate at the bottom of the glass. The crystals of calcium, uric acid and oxalate salts comprise the main building blocks of kidney stones. Other rather less common salt crystals that can lead to kidney stone formation include ammonium, cystine and xanthine. What can cause the increased concentration of salt crystals in urine leading to kidney stones?
While most of the salts that accumulate in the body leading to renal stones are present in many foods, some scientists don’t believe that eating certain foods can lead to kidney stone formation. The cause why certain women can develop kidney stones and others can’t is still not clear. However, it is widely agreed that it is related to certain genes as a large percentage of women with kidney stones have a strong family history. Some researchers believe that some individuals secrete low levels of chemical inhibitors which prevent super-saturation of urine with certain salt crystals that can lead to formation of stones.
Infections of the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract are common causes of stone formation in women. The incidence of urinary tract infections is more common in women as compared to men. This explains the higher incidence of infection related kidney stones among women. Infection leads to high levels of calcium phosphate crystals in urine which precipitate leading to stone formation.
Kidney stones are rarely caused by some uncommon metabolic disorders. Hyperoxaluria and cystinuria are rare metabolic disorders that are often complicated by kidney stone formation. In women with cystinuria, a large amount of the amino acid cystine, which is non-soluble in urine, is excreted in urine leading to cystine stones. Hyperoxaluria is a disorder that is characterized by accumulation of oxalate salts in the blood and urine of affected women leading to the formation of oxalate kidney stones.
Kidney stones can be formed in numerous clinical disorders such as huperuricemia, which is marked by increased levels of uric acid, gout, excess administration of vitamin D and the excessive use of certain diuretics.
So, who can you prevent the development of kidney stones? Drinking a lot of water is proven to decrease the incidence of kidney stone formation. Doing regular routine urine examinations can help detect accumulating salt crystals which can be an early sign of kidney stones.