A new study shows that the risk of women developing kidney stones is increasing, as is the number of cases being seen in emergency rooms. Des Moines urologists have also found that while the number of patients visiting the ER had increased over the time period, the number of women showed the greatest increase.

So why the increase? 

Obesity is a major risk factor for women in developing a kidney stone, and women are becoming more and more obese.  And obese woman are more likely to develop kidney stones than their male counterpart.

Researchers analyzed emergency room visits for a period of 3 years and discovered more than 3.5 million visits for upper urinary tract stones.  During that period, the occurrence of kidney stones rose to over 300 per 100,000 patients.  Among that group, over 10 percent of the patients were hospitalized as a result of their visit to the ER.

In the last 10 years, the way urologists manage kidney stone patients in the ER has changed dramatically. Today, Des Moines urologists have access to better analytical tools to allow for a more precise diagnosis. They use a CT scan, which is a quick test that allows for an immediate diagnosis and is available in every emergency department.

Better diagnosis may be contributing to our findings that patients are not being admitted to the hospital as frequently as they had in the past.  Also, medication can help with the spontaneous passage of these stones. As a result, some of these patients may be safely managed through the outpatient system with follow-up visits.

For those who do get admitted to the hospital, the study showed that the highest likelihood was related to blood infection, which can sometimes occur when the stone causes a blockage and urinary tract infection.

Women who suffer from kidney stones may also be at raised risk for heart disease, while no such increased risk was seen among men with kidney stones.

Des Moines urologists have also found that having kidney stones carries a higher risk of developing coronary disease in women independent of known cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes or high blood pressure.  However, it’s not really known why the risk is seen only among women.