About one out of every ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives, according to the National Kidney Foundation, with stones occurring about twice as often in men. Kidney stones have become more common during the past couple of decades. That increase could be due to the concurrent rise in obesity, which is a potential risk factor for kidney stones.
Kidney stones form when minerals and salts in your blood create hard concretions inside your kidneys. Normally, your kidneys filter out these materials, but when concentrations are high or when your kidneys are overworked or aren’t working normally, the substances can collect and “clump” together, forming sharp crystals. Very small stones may be excreted on their own when you urinate. But sometimes, the crystals get stuck — and that’s typically when most symptoms begin.
Larger kidney stones usually cause significant symptoms almost right away. With smaller stones, the symptoms can be less obvious and more difficult to discern. If you have a kidney stone, getting prompt medical care is essential for preventing complications. Here’s a list of some of the most common kidney stone symptoms to watch out for.
Kidney stone pain can be severe and stabbing or it may present as a continual ache. Most pain occurs around the kidneys in your lower back, belly, or side, sometimes radiating into your groin. Pain usually begins when the stone moves from the kidney into the ureter, a narrow tube that carries urine away from the kidneys and into the bladder. Kidney stone pain often occurs in waves, triggered by contractions of the ureters as they try to move the stone along. If the stone shifts position, you may notice a change in the location of your pain as well.
Usually, painful urination occurs when a stone moves down the ureter and reaches the bladder. You might also experience a burning sensation when you urinate, similar to when you have a urinary tract infection.
Normal, healthy urine is clear or transparent. If your urine is cloudy or smells foul, it’s usually an indication of a urinary tract infection. Sometimes, patients with kidney stones will have infections at the same time. One study found infections occur in about 8 percent of people who have kidney stones. The bad odor may be caused by an increase of germs in your urine, or it may simply occur because your urine is “backed up” and more concentrated than normal. Cloudiness is usually caused by pus that forms as a result of an infection. If your urine is pinkish or brownish, it’s probably an indication of blood. As the stone moves through your system, the sharp edges can scratch the lining of the ureter, causing minor bleeding. Blood in the urine (also called hematuria) is a relatively common symptom of kidney stones.
If you find yourself suddenly needing to urinate or needing to urinate more frequently than normal, it may be a sign that a kidney stone has reached the lower portion of your urinary tract. Like cloudy urine, increased urgency is also associated with urinary tract infections, although with kidney stones, urgency can be present even without an infection.
Sometimes a larger kidney stone can get lodged inside your ureter, blocking the normal flow of urine. When that happens, you may find you can only urinate a very small amount. When urine backs up, it can damage your kidneys. Any decrease in your urine flow should be reported to our office immediately.
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of kidney stones. When stones irritate nerves in your belly, those nerves can cause your stomach to feel queasy or upset. Other times, nausea and vomiting can be caused by infection or by your body’s response to severe pain.
Fever and chills are signs your body is trying to fight off an infection. Kidney stones certainly aren't the only medical problem that can cause a fever, but when you have a fever in combination with other symptoms, it may be a symptom of a kidney stone.
Symptomatic kidney stones require medical care, regardless of the type or number of symptoms you have and regardless of the severity of your symptoms. Left untreated, even a single stone can cause kidney damage. If you have a history of kidney stones, it could be a sign of an underlying problem. As a top urologist in New York City, Dr. Michael Rotman is skilled in diagnosing and treating kidney stones so men and women can prevent serious complications and enjoy better health. If you're having kidney stone symptoms or if you've had multiple kidney stones in the past, book an appointment online today.