Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Written by The Healthline Editorial Team | Published on March 21, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on March 21, 2013

Is It a Kidney Stone?

Kidney stones are among the most common urinary tract disorders. Kidney stones can form in your kidneys when normal substances in your urine become too concentrated. When this happens, solid material can stay in your kidney or may move down your urinary tract, eventually passing out of your body. Read through this article to determine if symptoms you’re experiencing might be related to kidney stones.

What Causes Symptoms?

Kidney stones don’t always produce symptoms. When they’re small, they may pass on their own without pain. However, large stones may block urine flow, which can cause a number of painful symptoms that can be quite severe. This can happen when a kidney stone becomes stuck in the tube that connects your bladder and your kidneys, which is called the ureter. However, the size of the stone doesn’t always correspond to the severity of pain.

What to Watch For

The location of the stone and its progress through your urinary tract can affect the type of symptoms you experience. Many people describe the feeling of kidney stones as a sharp pain on one side of the back or lower abdomen. The pain often starts abruptly and then lingers, becoming more intense over time. The affected area can also spread to include the groin area and lower abdomen.

Short or Long, On and Off

You may experience constant pain, or the pain may come and go in waves, sometimes lasting for a few minutes and then disappearing, only to resurface again about 10 minutes later. In some cases, the pain may last for a longer time while fluctuating in intensity. A change in the level of intensity may occur as the stone moves to a different position in your urinary tract.

Accompanying Symptoms

In addition to feeling severe pain in your back and/or side below your ribs, a number of other signs and symptoms may also occur with kidney stones. One of the most common is problems with urination. This includes pain while urinating, urine that appears cloudy or smells differently than it normally does, or feeling an urge to urinate more often than usual. Blood present in the urine due to kidney stones can also cause urine to appear brown, pink, or red.

Other Signs

Some people with kidney stones may also experience nausea and vomiting—as well as chills or fever if an infection has occurred. You should see a doctor if pain accompanies nausea, vomiting, chills, or fever. Other reasons to seek medical help include:

  • pain that becomes so severe you can’t sit, stand, or lie down comfortably
  • blood in your urine
  • having a hard time urinating

Clock Clues

If you’re uncertain whether your symptoms might be related to kidney stones, the clock may provide you with clues. Pain from kidney stones usually starts either late or early in the morning. This is because people generally urinate less frequently at night or in the early morning, and the ureter is usually constricted in the morning.

Confirming Your Symptoms

Your doctor can help confirm the presence of kidney stones by administering diagnostic tests. Depending on your specific symptoms, your doctor may suggest a blood or urine test. You may have kidney stones if your blood contains too much calcium or uric acid, or if you’re excreting certain substances in your urine. An imaging test can actually show whether you have kidney stones in your urinary tract.

Wait It Out

While it can be very painful in the short-term to pass kidney stones, the good news is that doing so usually does not cause any permanent damage. In some cases, simply increasing the amount of water that you drink can help you pass a stone. Other cases may require surgery. Your doctor can help you determine proper treatment methods for your condition, and may suggest preventive measures you can take to help avoid developing more in the future.

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