The kidneys are a vital but vulnerable area of a woman’s body. There are many potential issues that can arise in relation to the kidneys. Most kidney problems are both preventable and treatable but may require lifestyle changes or medical intervention.
The main task of the kidneys is to filter out the toxins in blood and then dilute these with water to form urine. Blood will pass through the kidneys where impurities like urea are removed. Water, urea and other toxins will then be sent through tubes called ureters that connect the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder will gradually fill with urine until it reaches capacity at which time a signal is sent to the brain to look for a restroom. The kidney, ureters, bladder and urethra (which carries urine out of the bladder) together are called the urinary tract.
One of the more serious things that can go awry in the kidneys is chronic kidney disease. This is when the kidneys lose functioning over a period of time. Diabetes and obesity are the main risk factors for this. Due to an increase in obesity among women, those with chronic kidney disease is rising. When a woman has chronic kidney disease, their blood is no longer filtered of waste like it had been. This makes a process called kidney dialysis necessary. Kidney dialysis is when toxins are actively removed from the blood to assist the now weakened kidneys.
Kidney stones are another common kidney ailment. These occur when minerals, generally calcium, begin to form hard deposits in the kidney. This usually will be caused by dehydration because the balance of minerals to water doesn’t allow the minerals to be flushed out in urine. These can be small and unnoticeable, in which case drinking water will evacuate them painlessly. If they are larger though, it can be very painful and it’s possible for them to block the flow of urine. Kidney stones are either passed out naturally, which can be painful, or broken up with shock waves first so it can be passed in smaller pieces. Occasionally, surgery may even be necessary to remove especially problematic ones.
Kidney infections are also much more common in women than men. Due to the shorter urethra in women and its more exposed anatomy, urinary tract infections are a common occurrence. More than half of women report having had a urinary tract infection at some point. While most urinary tract infections affect the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra), some also travel up into the kidneys. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection will often get much worse once it reaches the kidneys. Antibiotics are very effective at eliminating urinary tract infections though, so, as long as the infection is caught, treatment should be effective.
Women have a lot more kidney complication than men, but it doesn’t have to be a curse. Simple lifestyle changes like drinking more water, eating healthier and losing weight can keep the kidneys fully functioning. If, however, your kidneys are in pain, not producing urine properly, are infected or you have any other concerns about them, Associated Urologists of North Carolina is ready to step-in with expert care. With 15 board certified urologists, we serve those in and around Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Wake Forest, Clayton, Dunn, Clinton. Our office can be reached at 919-758-8677.