Study: Infections from kidney stones more likely in women

October 17, 2012 7:23:42 AM PDT
Kidney stones are more likely to affect men, but a new study says women get more kidney stones and more complications from them.

A recent report says women such as 58-year-old Wendy Oquendo are increasingly vulnerable to serious kidney infections if they have a stone. Wendy had several stone events, the first was fifteen years ago when she had severe back pain.

"It was very hard to do anything; it took me two hours to get dressed. I knew at some point I had to go to the hospital" said Oquendo.

Wendy had a whopping kidney infection that needed care in the ICU. Women have more urinary infections than do men, and things go downhill if a stone is present too.

"When a stone is passing, it will obstruct the kidney," said Dr. David Hoenig of Montefiore Medical Center, "if there's an infection at the same time, it becomes like an abscess that cannot be drained that won't get better on its own until the stone passes or is treated."

Some foods that increase risk of stones are green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, celery, beets and eggplants. They all contain large amounts of oxalate which can form stones. Berries are another source, as are nuts. Tea also has a lot of oxalates.

Foods that can help prevent stones are citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, even lemon concentrate to use in cooking. Drinking plenty of water dilutes the urine and reduces the chance of a stone. Dr. Hoenig also says "intake of low levels of calcium or high levels of calcium can both be associated with stone formation, so moderation is the key. I typically recommend two services a day divided, one early in the day and one later in the day."

Dr. Hoenig says you'll know when you are drinking enough water because your urine will appear clear rather than yellow. You don't have to avoid the products that increase stone risk, just eat them in moderation. Dr. Hoenig says patients such as Wendy with a history of many stones should be checked out by a urologist or kidney expert.

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