Symptoms and Diagnosis

How to know if you have a kidney stone

 

Kidney stones are most associated with one palpable symptom: pain. Yet while many people experience severe pain with a kidney stone, others feel only vague discomfort or no pain at all. Your symptoms depend on the characteristics of your stone – its size, shape, and location in your body – all of which will help to confirm your doctor’s diagnosis and, ultimately, your treatment plan.

Symptoms

If you have a kidney stone, you may experience:

  • Sharp pain in your back or lower abdomen
  • Vague discomfort or dull pain, like a stomachache that doesn’t go away
  • Pain while urinating or blood in your urine
  • Pain in your groin or thigh (if you have a ureteral stone)
  • Pain in your testicles
  • Nausea and occasional vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine

If your stone creates an irritation or blockage, your pain may ramp up rapidly. Most stones pass without causing damage – but usually not without causing pain. While pain relievers may be the only treatment needed for small stones, your doctor may recommend other treatment options if you are in danger of further complications.

Severe Pain (Renal Colic)

If a stone blocks the normal urine flow through your ureter, you may experience a condition known as renal colic – sharp, severe pain on the side of your body caused by a sudden increase of pressure in your urinary tract and ureteral wall. The pain comes in waves and has been described as one of the most painful experiences, similar to childbirth.

Renal colic can be an emergency situation and you should contact your doctor or visit a hospital. If the pain is accompanied by a high fever, seek medical help immediately.

No Pain or Symptoms

Some kidney stones do not cause any discomfort, pain or symptoms of any kind. These asymptomatic stones are often small and located in places within the kidney where they do not block the flow of urine. Asymptomatic stones are typically found during an imaging scan or X-ray for other conditions.

Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above and have not yet seen your doctor for a diagnosis, now is the time. At your appointment, your doctor will perform a physical exam and take a medical history, including questions about your family history of kidney stones, your diet and any gastrointestinal problems.

To complete your kidney stone diagnosis, your doctor may also perform a:

  • Blood test to reveal any biochemical problems that can lead to kidney stones
  • An imaging test such as an X-ray, ultrasound or CT scan to find your stone’s location and show any conditions that may have caused it to form
  • Urinalysis ­to determine whether you have an infection or if your urine contains substances that may form stones

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