Kidney stones are becoming painfully common, especially in women.
The reason, in part, is the increased use of CT scans to detect crystal masses that can develop anywhere along the urinary tract, Mayo Clinic researchers note in a new study.
“We are now diagnosing symptomatic kidney stones that previously would have gone undiagnosed because they would not have been detected,” said lead author Andrew Rule.
The findings — in the March issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings — are based on data from the health records of more than 7,200 Olmstead County, Minn., residents who were diagnosed with kidney stones for the first time between 1984 and 2012.
Investigators found that women — especially those 18 to 39 years old — developed stones more often than men. Women had a higher frequency of infection stones resulting from recurrent urinary tract infections. In men, blockage of the prostate gland contributed to the formation of stones.
Researchers acknowledge that their findings have limitations. Their study group was mostly white, and Caucasians have a higher risk for kidney stones than other racial groups, they said. They also need to clarify whether the increase in diagnosing stones was simply due to improvements in diagnostic tools.
Nonetheless, for patients who struggle with kidney stones, which are extremely painful, dietary changes are suggested to prevent future episodes. Modifications including drinking more water and cutting back on salt and meat.