A leading expert from Barts Hospital commented that the increase in bad habits, such as smoking and drinking is responsible for the dramatic rise in women developing kidney stones.

Urology Consultant Mr Noor Buchholz stated on the evening of the European Section of Urolithiasis (EULIS) Stone Conference to be held at Barts that the number of women who required kidney stone surgery has doubled within the last five years.

According to Buchholz:

“Five years ago, we treated 400 women a year for kidney stones – in the last year that figure increased dramatically to 800. We’ve had to expand our services to cope with the number of people requiring treatment and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. New research and technology means we have been able to develop better surgery for patients that eliminates the stones more quickly and reduces patients’ recovery time.”

Barts Hospital and the London NHS Trust are one of the few trusts that can treat kidney stone patients without waiting lists by using a specialized, quick procedure called lithotripsy that uses shock waves to break up stones.

Kidney stones are caused by various factors, such as having a sedentary lifestyle, excessive smoking and drinking as well as eating too much meat and salt.

Mr Buchholz commented:

“There is no doubt in my mind that the increase in poor lifestyle choices including smoking and drinking among women is the key reason we are treating so many more of them.”

Statistics show that forty years ago men were three times more likely to require kidney stone treatment compared with women; however since then these numbers have drastically changed. Seven times more women require kidney stone treatment compared to four decades ago. Experts suggest that the dramatic rise, which started in the seventies, is due to women taking up the same bad habits as men in terms of smoking and drinking.

Mr Buchholz added:

“One in eight people in this country will develop kidney stones at some point. Traditionally they were seen as a man’s disease, but that is no longer the case with women fast catching up with men.”

As kidney stones can be prevented in most cases, doctors are issuing the following advice to women to help reduce their risk:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating a varied diet including lots of fruit and vegetables for better digestion. Magnesium and potassium-rich foods, such as spinach and bananas are ideal.
  • Consuming alcohol in moderation – women should not drink more than three units per day
  • Daily exercising
  • Stop smoking as it causes a build-up of toxins in the kidneys that may contribute to kidney stones

Written by Petra Rattue