Tamsulosin Use In Females and Kidney Stones

Alpha-blockers (i.e., tamsulosin) are commonly seen in male patients, as they are used to treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH; the only FDA-approved indication currently). Because of this, there is no doubt a prescription sent to the pharmacy for a female may raise some speculation. In recent years, uroselective alpha-blockers have been used for the management of kidney stones. All agents in this class have been found to be effective, although most of the data is regarding tamsulosin. Below, we discuss kidney stones, tamsulosin use in females, and why you might not need to call the doctor for clarification.

Kidney stones are common and have only been increasing in prevalence. They are crystalline concretions formed as a result of solute precipitation in the setting of urine supersaturation. 80% of patients will form calcium stones, however, there are multiple different constituents capable of crystallization and sometimes stones will contain more than one type. Several factors can increase the concentration of calcium or oxalate in the urine, including diet, intestinal bypass surgery, and metabolic disorders. Medications may also increase the risk of calcium phosphate stone development, particularly drugs that alter carbonic-anhydrase function such as acetazolamide and topiramate. A broad review of kidney stone composition and likely association include the following:

  • Calcium oxalate; likely caused from diet or intestinal bypass surgery
  • Calcium phosphate; seen in metabolic disorders or with carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
  • Magnesium ammonium phosphate (AKA struvite); seen in infectious stones
  • Uric acid; typically idiopathic or from hypovolemia
  • Cystine; result of genetic defect

Kidney stones can be asymptomatic when they are limited to the kidney. Pain typically develops when the stone travels through the genitourinary system, from the kidney, and down the ureters. The pain is often described as dull initially but can progress to sharp, and severe. Blood in the urine is not uncommon from larger stones damaging the ureter walls. Several complications may arise from kidney stones, including but not limited to infection, abscess formation, ureteral perforation, and renal function loss from long-standing obstruction.

As far as treatment goes, the primary goal is pain control with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve ureteral spasms. Tamsulosin was noticed to aid stone passage by reducing smooth muscle stimulation, therefore was designated as medical expulsive therapy (MET) along with calcium channel blockers (i.e., nifedipine) and antispasmodic agents. MET therapies are used to increase the passage rate of kidney stones. There has been some data to suggest better efficacy from tamsulosin over nifedipine, so it is typically used more often. Tamsulosin also has less concern for hypotension given its uroselectivity. It is currently recommended to treat with tamsulosin 0.4 mg daily for up to 4 weeks in kidney stones >5 mm and ≤10 mm, in all adults. This is why you will see tamsulosin use in females!

While kidney stones are likely the answer for tamsulosin use in females, there has been emerging data in the treatment for lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Randomized controlled trials with tamsulosin vs. placebo have seen improvements in overactive bladder and quality of life questionnaires, along with physiological improvements in urine flow rate. This is currently used off-label, but you may see prescriptions for tamsulosin 0.4 mg daily for these reasons. 

Have you seen any other unusual cases with tamsulosin? I hope this review saves you time from calling the clinic for clarification!

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This article was written by Hannah Wetter in collaboration with Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP

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  1. Curhan, G., et al. Kidney stones in adults: Diagnosis and acute management of suspected nephrolithiasis. UpToDate [Web]. Wolters Kluwer Health. Waltham, MA. Last updated January 2022. Accessed via https://www.uptodate.com/contents/kidney-stones-in-adults-diagnosis-and-acute-management-of-suspected-nephrolithiasis?search=kidney%20stones&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  2. Koski, R. Efficacy and Safety of Alpha-Blockers for Kidney Stones in Adults. Published 2018; 34(2): 54-61. 
  3. Nojaba, L., Guzman, N. Nephrolithiasis. StatPearls [Internet]. Last updated August 2021. Accessed via https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559227/
  4. Zhang, H.L., et al. Tamsulosin for treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Impotence Research. Published 2017; 29: 148-156.


  1. Ibrahim

    This well appreciated. It is a good review

    • Maria_carmichael

      The last time I took flowmax my blood pressure dropped and I was very cold and hD to put blankets on. I’m taking Norvasc for my blood pressure med

  2. Carla Phillips

    These explanations cleared several questions up for me. I like to know what is going into my system and how it might affect me. Don’t like surprises. Thank you for being available.

  3. Denise

    My Doctor prescribe Tamsulosin for kidney stones I am aware I may need surgery but, I hope not. Hopefully medication will help kidney eliminate dissolve stones

    • Shyvonne Parker

      Did it help you?
      Are still taking it?
      Have you passed your stone yet, because I was starting a week ago on Friday to help to pass a stone.

  4. Jacqueline Gholston

    Thanks for the info. I was prescribed Tamsulosin for kidney stone which helped quite rapidly however the hospital that prescribed the Tamsulosin for stones said nothing about me having a lower bowel obstruction which I was given when the emergency room called me in because of the stone how they completely missed the Bowel obstruction which I say home in severe pain for two weeks before going to another hospital for abdominal pain not going to rest room ending up having surgery the next day they still have me on the Tamsulosin so it has its benefits ladies

  5. Carolina R

    Does it help ? I have hernia mesh plus intestinal surgeries with this medication severely affect me? I’m afraid of taking this medicine, but my kidney stones are so painful that I am beside myself. Please help someone.

  6. Christopher

    What about the 2016 study showing no benefit of MET therapies over a placebo? The largest peer reviewed study analyzing medical intervention to expedite the passing of stones showed no benefit over a placebo, yet, the practice is still used by physicians. This is science that doctors don’t follow, just to write more prescriptions. The statements in this article contradict what scientific studies have proven. My question is, why does this site promote unproven results from medical intervention? Is this just another website with ties to the pharmaceutical industry?

    • Eric Christianson

      Hi and thanks for the comment! Do you have a link to that study?

      Here’s the link to one of the main articles that supports this https://karger.com/uin/article-abstract/89/1/107/321635/Tamsulosin-for-Ureteral-Stones-A-Systematic-Review?redirectedFrom=fulltext

      As for this website, I do all the content myself with the aid of other pharmacists I trust. I’m not perfect but try to do the best I can. I don’t take money from the pharmaceutical industry. You’ll notice no advertisements on this website for pharmaceuticals. I don’t take any honorariums or speaking fees from pharmaceutical companies. In addition, tamsulosin is dirt cheap and a generic medication so no one has tremendous financial incentive to promote its use.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP

  7. Jag

    Thanks for the write up on this medication. I just started taking it last night for the small kidney stone I have (2mm) and it certainly has made me urinate more with faster flow. Only side effect I don’t like is the stuffy nose and dizziness.
    I was scared to take it when I read the side effects it can cause but so far ok.


    very educative

  9. Katie Marlowe

    After dozens of kidney stones over the years (some having been removed through surgical interventions and others through sheer determination) this is the first time I’ve been prescribed Flomax. I was a bit nervous about side effects, being that I’m a female. But, your post has been helpful and informative. I appreciate it very much.

  10. Jules P

    Yes Tamsulosin is a God send. I had kidney stone 3 times and the last two the Urologist prescribed Tamsulosin and both times my stones passed within hours!.

    • Shamma

      How big were your kidney stones?
      They told me I have many tiny ones and didn’t specify the size and it’s my first time using this medication


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Written By Eric Christianson

March 9, 2022

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