What Are the Symptoms of a Kidney Stone?

Kidney stones are small -- usually between the size of a grain of salt to a kernel of corn. Sometimes, you may not feel anything and never realize you even had one.

But other times, you’ll know about it. That’s because flushing one out of your system as you pee can hurt.

That pain you feel as you pass a stone is the main sign that your body might have too much in the way of minerals and not enough in the way of fluids. That imbalance is one reason these pebble-like objects might form. The stones can be brown or yellow, and smooth or rough.

Learn more about the symptoms of a kidney stone so that you’ll know when to call a doctor.

What Does a Kidney Stone Feel Like?

Even when you have a kidney stone, you may not have any symptoms -- that is, until the stone goes on the move.

The stone can move around within your kidney or into your ureter, the tube that connects your kidney to your bladder.

Symptoms can vary and can range in severity, but the most common one is it can hurt. You may feel the pain:

  • In your side or back, below the ribs -- and it can be severe
  • In your groin and lower abdomen
  • Come and go and range in severity
  • As you pee -- and you might find yourself going more often than you usually do

The pain you feel can actually move to different locations in your body, from your abdomen or back down to your groin. This means the stone is moving through the ureter, from your kidney and closer to your bladder.

When this happens, you are more likely to have a burning feeling when you pee or more of a need to urinate.

Sometimes, you can actually see the stones exit when you pee.

Do Bigger Stones Hurt More?

Despite what you might naturally think, the size of your kidney stone doesn’t determine how much pain you have.

Sometimes, smaller stones cause the worst pain, while big stones might just bring on a dull ache.

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Beyond Pain: Other Symptoms

Pain is just one symptom of a kidney stone.

Other signs you might have one could be urine that is cloudy, pink, red, or brown. Your pee could also have a bad smell. Other symptoms include:

  • A continuous feeling you need to pee
  • Fever and chills if you have an infection
  • Small amounts of urine when you go to the bathroom

When Should I Call a Doctor?

If you are in bad pain, you probably will want to see your doctor. If you aren’t able to pass the kidney stone, you could get a urinary tract infection. It’s also recommended to call a doctor if you have fever and chills or if your pee is cloudy and bad-smelling.

You should get immediate medical care if you are:

  • Sick to your stomach and throwing up while in pain
  • Feverish and cold off and on while you’re in pain
  • Having bloody urine or a hard time peeing

You can have bad pain if a stone blocks the tube from your kidney to your bladder. Even when you’ve passed the stone, it can still be very painful. But in most cases, it won’t cause permanent damage.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on December 12, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Kidney Fund: “What are the symptoms of kidney stones?”

Mayo Clinic: “Diseases and Conditions: Kidney Stones.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Kidney Stones in Adults.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Kidney Stones.”

UCLA Health Kidney Stone Center: “Kidney Stone Symptoms and Diagnosis.”

National Kidney Foundation: “Kidney Stones.”

Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School: “Kidney Stones.”

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