Published: March 13, 2024

6 Common Signs of Kidney Stones, Besides Pain

By: Dr. Robert Elgin, D.O.

Every year, more than half a million people enter the emergency room doubled over in pain, seeking relief for kidney stones. For many, the stones seemed to come from nowhere. But did you know that many of these patients likely had already been experiencing warning signs?

A kidney stone’s calling card is, indeed, sudden and severe pain. However, many less frightening signs could also warn you that stones are forming in your urinary tract.

But here’s the rub: Some symptoms mimic other conditions, such as urinary tract infections. Because of this, patients might tolerate what they believe is temporary discomfort.

Doing so can make a big difference in treatment. So, let’s take the first step to prevention by understanding what stones are.

Kidney stone blog

How Your Body Makes Stones

Stones are formed in the kidneys by a high concentration of chemicals, such as calcium and oxalates (salt). If you do not drink enough fluids to dissolve these substances, they’ll bind and attract other elements, developing into stones.

Some stones are as tiny as a grain of sand. But in time, if one becomes big enough, it can block urine and force it back into your kidney, ureter, and even bladder, resulting in a painful infection.

If You Have Stones, Your Body Will Try to Tell You

Overall, you have a one in 10 chance of developing kidney stones. However, the likelihood of experiencing symptoms other than extreme pain could be better. Here are common warning signs:

  • Cloudy and or foul-smelling urine.
  • A burning sensation when urinating.
  • Blood in your urine (hematuria)
  • Cramping pain in your lower back and sides.
  • Fever and chills (a sign of an infection)
  • Nausea and or vomiting

If you have these symptoms, do not wait to see if they go away. It’s time to call a doctor.

Stones Can Be Treated. If You Have Them, Here’s What to Expect

Diagnosing kidney stones typically requires urine or blood samples and imaging. If the stones are diagnosed early and/or are small enough to pass, you might be able to flush them out by drinking a lot of water and taking pain medication.

If a stone causes complications, such as blocking urine, your doctor will likely suggest one of these procedures.

  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy – In this non-invasive treatment, the physician targets shock waves from outside your body toward the stones, breaking them into small enough pieces to pass in urine.
  • Ureteroscopy – Most often used for stones in the ureter, a ureteroscopy employs a slim, fiberoptic tube passed through the urethra and bladder into the ureter. Once located, the stones are removed with a small basket-like device or shattered with shock waves.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy – This approach is often advised for large or complicated stones. The surgeon makes a small incision in the patient’s back and threads a fiberoptic scope through it into the kidney, then removes the stones through the tube (sometimes breaking them up first).

Leave No Stone Unturned: Prevention Tips and Risks

A range of health conditions and some medications can contribute to the likelihood of stones forming in your kidneys. Conditions include obesity, recurrent urinary tract infections, and inflammatory bowel disease.

You can be proactive in trying to reduce that likelihood. Here are four ways you can turn stones away.

  • Drink water in liquid and solid forms. Try to get 11 or more cups of water daily, including fluids from fruits and vegetables and tea and coffee.
  • Cut back on stone-friendly foods. If you eat a lot of animal proteins (especially red meat), processed foods, and sugary sweets, replace some servings with fruits and vegetables.
  • Say yes to some dairy. True, most kidney stones are made from calcium deposits, but calcium-rich foods still help prevent stones from binding in the kidneys because they bind with oxalates before entering your kidneys.
  • Say no to tobacco. When you smoke, you inhale chemicals that have been linked to stone formation.

Prevention could be the first step to avoiding a stone-related emergency room visit, but knowing your body’s warning signs might be the most important for avoiding serious complications. If you think you have stones, contact your doctor – nearly 3 million people do so yearly.

Visit our kidney stones page here to learn more about stone symptoms and treatments. If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of kidney stones, request an appointment here.


Share This Post