Kidney stones, the hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys, can be a painful and often recurring issue for many. While both men and women can develop kidney stones, the way they manifest and the reasons behind their development can differ between the genders. Boise urologist, Dr. Austen Slade, sheds light on this condition and the treatments available.

Kidney Stones in Men

On average, men are more prone to developing kidney stones than women. According to the National Kidney Foundation, approximately 12% of men will experience kidney stones in their lifetime. Most commonly, men between the ages of 20-49 are at risk, but it's not uncommon for men of any age to develop a stone.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones in Men

  • Severe lower back or abdominal pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Excruciating pain sensations

Leading Causes of Kidney Stones in Men

  • Inadequate hydration
  • High intake of animal protein
  • High sodium intake
  • Genetic predisposition
  • BPH (less common, but possible)
kidney pain

Kidney Stones in Women

While men are more prone to kidney stones, women are not exempt. The urinary tract anatomy, hormonal influences, especially estrogen, and typically lower intake of certain risk factors make the experience different for women. The Mayo Clinic states that women account for about 7% of kidney stone cases, with the risk increasing with age.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones in Women

  • Severe lower back or abdominal pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Lower pain tolerance
  • Different pain localization
cross-section of kidney

Unique Risk Factors for Women With Kidney Stones

While everyone faces certain common risk factors for kidney stones, women have some unique circumstances that can elevate their risk. Pregnancy, for instance, introduces changes in the urinary tract's function. The body's increased demand for nutrients and the subsequent waste production, combined with the physical pressure of a growing fetus, can alter the urinary system's dynamics, increasing the likelihood of stone formation.

Additionally, hormonal imbalances, particularly related to estrogen levels, play a crucial role in women's kidney health. Estrogen helps keep calcium in the bones and out of the bloodstream, and fluctuations in this hormone can lead to higher chances of stone development. Understanding these unique factors is vital for women to take preventive measures and maintain optimal kidney health.

Common Treatments for Kidney Stones

Smaller kidney stones can typically pass on their own. Once they become too large to pass through the urinary tract, one of the following procedures can be used to remove them:

  • Ureteroscopy: This is a minimally invasive procedure where a thin, flexible scope (ureteroscope) is passed through the urethra and bladder into the ureter. Once the stone is located, special tools can capture the stone or break it into smaller pieces that can pass more easily.
  • Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL): This non-invasive procedure uses high-energy shock waves to break the kidney stone into tiny fragments, which can then pass naturally through the urinary tract. The patient lies on a water-filled cushion, and the surgeon uses X-rays or ultrasound tests to precisely locate the stone before targeting it with the shock waves.
  • Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): Recommended for larger stones or when other treatments are ineffective, PCNL involves making a small incision in the back to provide direct access to the kidney. A nephroscope (a thin viewing tool) is inserted into the kidney to locate and remove the stone. If the stone is large, it might first be broken into smaller pieces using energy probes.
  • Mini-Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (mini-PCNL): Creating an entry in the kidney almost half the size of standard PCNL, mini-PCNL is recommended for medium to large stones that are too large or numerous to be effectively treated using ureteroscopy but not so large that standard PCNL is warranted. This allows for better stone clearance than ureteroscopy with fewer complications and less bleeding risk than standard PCNL.

Contact Boise Urologist Dr. Slade for Kidney Stone Treatment

Dr. Austen Slade stands out as the only Endo-urologist fellowship-trained surgeon in Idaho. Having trained under the renowned urological expert, James Lingeman, Marcelino Rivera, and Tim Large, Dr. Slade brings a wealth of expertise to the table. Whether you're dealing with recurrent kidney stones or facing the condition for the first time, Dr. Slade is here to guide you through diagnosis and treatment.

Ready to address your kidney stone concerns? Contact Dr. Slade to schedule an appointment and explore the best treatment options tailored for you.

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