Signs and Symptoms You May Have Kidney Stones

signs and symptoms of kidney stones

We’ve all heard stories about how excruciatingly painful kidney stones can be. But how do you know if the pain you’re experiencing is caused by kidney stones? There are several key signs and symptoms to watch out for that can indicate the presence of these small, hard deposits that form inside your kidneys. Being aware of these signs can help you identify a potential kidney stone early on and seek treatment before it grows larger and causes complications. In this blog post, we’ll go over the most common signs and symptoms of kidney stones so you know what to look out for.

What Are Kidney Stones?

First, a quick overview of what kidney stones are. Kidney stones form when minerals and salts in your urine crystallize and stick together. This forms a hard, solid mass that can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The stones start off tiny but can gradually increase in size over weeks and months. There are a few different types of kidney stones, each made up of different crystalline compounds. The most common type is calcium oxalate stones. Kidney stones often don’t cause any symptoms until they start traveling down the urinary tract.

Signs of a kidney stone

One of the classic signs of a kidney stone is pain in your side, belly, groin, or back. This pain occurs when the stone starts moving from your kidney down through the ureters, the thin tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. The ureters are very narrow, so a stone can easily get stuck as it passes through, blocking the flow of urine. This causes a buildup of pressure in the kidney, ureter, and surrounding areas that manifests as severe pain.

You’ll most likely feel the pain in your flank area, which is your back on the side of your ribs. However, the pain can radiate to other areas including your lower abdomen and groin. The pain often starts out mild and intermittent, coming and going in waves. But it progressively worsens as the stone travels down the ureter. Most people describe the pain as an intense cramping sensation.

Pain While Urinating

Another common symptom is pain or difficulty when urinating. This occurs when the stone reaches the end of the ureter near the bladder and blocks urine flow. You may feel a sharp, burning pain when you try to urinate. Or you may find it takes longer than usual for urine to pass. Your urine flow may stop and start instead of being a steady stream. The pain usually peaks at the end of urination. Trying to urinate may trigger or worsen the waves of flank pain.

Blood in Urine

One of the telltale signs of a kidney stone is blood in your urine, which is called hematuria. This happens when the stone damages the delicate tissues of the urinary tract as it passes through. The blood is typically pink, red, or brownish in color. It may come and go as the stone moves around. There may be enough blood that you can see it easily in your urine. Other times you may only see it on a urinalysis test.

Nausea and Vomiting

The intense waves of pain caused by a kidney stone moving through your urinary tract can also trigger nausea and vomiting. The pain signals from your kidney get crossed with the nerves that control nausea and vomiting located near your brain stem. Plus, a stone blocking urine flow builds up pressure in your kidneys. This stretches the organ capsules and causes kidney swelling and inflammation, which can also stimulate your nausea nerves. About 50 percent of people with kidney stones experience nausea and vomiting.

Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine

Passing a kidney stone can cause other changes to your urine as well, beyond just blood. Your urine may take on a cloudy or foul smell as the stone irritates the tissues it passes through. Bacteria can also get trapped behind the stone and multiply, causing a urinary tract infection. The infection can lead to pus and bacteria in your urine, giving it a cloudy or murky appearance. The bacteria create an ammonia-like odor that makes your urine smell bad.

Persistent Urge to Urinate

You may feel like you constantly have to pee when you have a kidney stone. This urgent need to urinate happens because the stone is obstructing urine flow. Your bladder keeps filling up with urine that can’t pass, which creates bladder pressure and the persistent urge to go. You may only pass small amounts of urine when you try to go, even though it feels like your bladder is full. The urge tends to come and go along with the flank pain.

Groin Pain

As the stone moves down the ureter toward  the  bladder, you might experience pain in your groin area. This is another common symptom of kidney stones. The stone’s journey through the narrow ureter can cause referred pain in different areas, and the groin is one of them. The pain might be sharp or throbbing and can be accompanied by a feeling of pressure or fullness.

Fever and Chills

In some cases, kidney stones can cause severe infection. If a stone causes a blockage, bacteria can build up, and this leads to an infection in the urinary tract. Because of this, there is a chance of fever and chills, along with other signs of infection like increased urgency to urinate and even a burning sensation during urination. If you experience these symptoms along with other signs of kidney stones, it would be best if you consult with your urologist as soon as possible.

Seeking Medical Attention

While some small kidney stones may pass on their own, larger stones or those causing severe symptoms require medical attention. If you notice blood in your urine, experience intense pain, or have persistent symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or fever, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional.


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