What Are the Symptoms of a Kidney Stone?

Kidney stones are small. They can be as tiny as a grain of salt or as big as a corn kernel. You may not feel anything and never realize you even had one.

Video Transcript

National Kidney Foundation: "How Your Kidneys Work."<br> National Kidney Foundation: "Living With One Kidney."<br> Cleveland Clinic: "Chronic Kidney Disease." <br> AudioJungle

SPEAKER: Here are five amazing facts about the kidney. Your kidney acts like your body's janitor. It's primary job is to keep the place clean, so that everything runs smoothly. To do that, it filters your blood. It can sift through about 200 quarts of blood a day. Of that, 99% is recycled, and any extra water and waste is flushed through your pee. It also acts like a cardiologist, probably the best you've ever had. It sends out hormones to regulate your blood pressure, making sure your heart pumps smoothly throughout the day. Your kidney has your back, and your legs, arms, and feet, too. Basically, every bone in your body. It produces vitamin D to make sure your bones stay healthy and strong. You can live without one of your kidneys. In fact, you only need roughly 60% of kidney function to feel fit.

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

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

What Does a Kidney Stone Feel Like?

When you have a kidney stone, you may not have any symptoms -- that is, until the stone starts to stir.

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

Symptoms can vary and can be mild or severe. The most common one is pain. You may feel it:

  • In your side or back, below the ribs -- and the pain can be very intense
  • In your groin and lower abdomen
  • Come and go and get better or worse
  • As you pee -- and you might have to go more often than usual

The pain can shift around in your body, from your belly or back down to your groin. This means the stone is making its way from your kidney through the ureter and closer to your bladder.

When this happens, you are more likely to feel a burning when you pee or have more urges to go.

Sometimes, you can spot the stones after they exit.

Do Bigger Stones Hurt More?

Surprisingly, the size of your kidney stone doesn’t match the degree of pain.

Sometimes smaller stones can hurt the worst, while big stones might just give you a dull ache.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on September 15, 2019



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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