Kidney Stone Signs and Symptoms

Kidney stones are usually small. They may be as tiny as a grain of salt or as big as a corn kernel. The stones can be brown or yellow, and smooth or rough. 

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.

Sometimes, you don’t notice any symptoms and never know that you had one. But other times, you’ll know. Pain is the most common symptom of kidney stones. Flushing one out of your body as you pee can hurt, sometimes a lot. It’s the main sign that you might be taking in too many minerals and not enough fluids.

Kidney Stone Pain

You may not have symptoms until the stone starts to stir. It can move around inside your kidney or into your ureter, the tube that connects your kidney to your bladder.

You may feel pain:

  • In your side or back, below your ribs
  • In your lower belly
  • In your groin or testicles

The pain can shift around to different places in your body. This means the stone is making its way from your kidney through the ureter to your bladder. It might also hurt more when you pee.

Your pain may range from mild to so strong that you go to the hospital. It usually comes and goes, with waves of severe pain lasting from 20 minutes to an hour.

Small stones may pass within 1 or 2 weeks. Larger ones could take 2 to 3 weeks.

Kidney Stone Symptoms

Other kidney stone symptoms include:

  • Burning when you pee
  • Needing to pee more often
  • Trouble peeing
  • Passing only small amounts of urine
  • Pink, red, or brown blood in your urine (hematuria)
  • Small stones in your pee
  • Cloudy or bad-smelling pee
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Do Bigger Stones Hurt More?

Surprisingly, the size of a kidney stone doesn’t match the degree of pain. Sometimes, smaller stones hurt the worst, while big stones just give you a dull ache.

Kidney Stone Pain Relief

You may be able to take steps at home to ease kidney stone pain:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to try to flush out the stone. Aim for 2 to 3 quarts a day. Water is best.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Ask your doctor about prescription medicines like nifedipine (Adamant, Procardia) or tamsulosin (Flomax) that relax your ureter to help stones pass through.

See your doctor right away if you have severe pain or signs of an infection or urinary blockage.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on June 27, 2020

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.”

UptoDate: “Patient education: Kidney stones in adults (Beyond the Basics).”

National Health Service (U.K.): “Kidney stones.”

Urology Care Foundation: “Kidney stones.”

 

 

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