Kidney Stone Symptoms Explained

When a person has kidney stones, they could have some pretty nasty unpleasant symptoms, or none at all. Kidney stone symptoms are very individual, and depend on a number of factors, such as the size and location of the stone and whether infection is present.

What causes Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones have many causes, although several factors may increase your risk of developing kidney stone complications. Kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances than the fluid in your urine can dilute. Often, stones can form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.

Depending on your situation, you may need nothing more than taking pain medication and drinking lots of water to pass a kidney stone.  At the same time, your urine may lack substances that prevent crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form.

What are Kidney Stone symptoms?

  • Renal colic – a severe gripping pain in the back just below the ribcage.
  • Pain in the back that also radiates around to the front and towards the groin.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Nausea and vomiting as a result of severe pain.
  • Difficulty passing urine due to a large stone blocking the flow.
  • Unusual appearance of urine – for example it may be pink or brown in colour (which may indicate the presence of blood) and / or have a foul odour.
  • Infection accompanied by fever and chills.
  • A feeling of needing to urinate more often than usual.
  • Small gravelly stones passing in the urine.

What complications can occur from Kidney Stones?

  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Infection in the kidneys and possibly passing to the bloodstream.
  • Permanent kidney damage.
  • Kidney failure.

When to see a doctor or a urologist?

You should see a doctor if you:

  • Have trouble passing urine.
  • Have blood-stained or smelly urine.
  • Are experiencing fever and chills.
  • Pass a stone when urinating. In this case you should take it to your doctor for examination.
  • Have pain that is so severe that you also feel nauseous and cannot get into a comfortable position.

According to the Better Health Channel, most kidney stones will usually pass within a matter of weeks of their own accord. However, several weeks can be a long time to wait if you have ongoing or waves on intense pain! In this case, you may need pain relief medication. In some cases hospitalisation may be required if the pain is just too severe to manage at home.

Of course if an infection is present it may need to be treated with antibiotics, and may also warrant kidney stone removal.

What are some Kidney Stone treatment options?

Kidney stone treatment options include:

  • Endoscopic removal – non-invasive procedure that breaks up and removes stones.
  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (EWSL) – non-invasive method that uses shock waves to break up and remove kidney stones.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy – a procedure generally used for larger stones or more complex cases, and involves making a small incision in the skin to see inside the kidneys and remove stones.
  • Open surgery – this is rarely used, and usually reserved for the most severe cases.

Of course, prevention is the best cure, and this includes good hydration and avoidance of urinary tract infections. Lemon or lime juice may also be helpful as it contains citric acid which appears to prevent calcium from binding to other substances that form kidney stones.

Make sure to see your doctor or urologist if you experience kidney stone symptoms to discuss management, treatment options and prevention. Or find out more about Kidney Stone prevention options at our kidney stones page.