Kidney Stone Signs and Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on August 14, 2022
2 min read

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. 

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.

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.

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

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.

If you've been diagnosed with kidney stones, you should:

  • 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.