About 1 in 10 Americans develop kidney stones, and the pain from these small mineral deposits can be so intense that it causes more than one million people to take a trip to the emergency room every year.
At Urological Associates in Charlottesville, Virginia, our board-certified urologists diagnose and treat all types and sizes of kidney stones. We also provide expert education to our patients about understanding the causes of kidney stones and the signs you may have one. Learn to recognize five signs of kidney stones and what to do about them in this informative post.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hard deposits of crystal-forming minerals, such as calcium, uric acid, salt, and oxalate. These hard stones start in your kidneys and move into your ureter. They can range in size from very small to quite large (about the size of a golf ball).
Kidney stones form when you don’t have enough water in your urinary system to flush away these minerals. When this happens, they become highly concentrated in your urine and start to crystalize, forming stones.
Different types of stones form from different minerals. Although they can be intensely painful, kidney stones usually pass through your system without creating a lasting threat to your health. However once you’ve had a stone, you have a 50% risk of developing a stone in the future.
What signs indicate I may have kidney stones?
Kidney stones don’t usually trigger noticeable symptoms until they begin to move. Here’s a closer look at the top five signs you may have developed kidney stones.
1. Significant pain
Pain is the top sign you may have developed kidney stones. Many people describe the pain associated with the stones as the worst pain they’ve experienced. Some people even compare it to labor pains or the pain associated with being stabbed.
The pain begins when the stone starts to move from your kidney to your ureter. Since the stone blocks the opening, it causes pressure to build in the kidney and triggers your pain. The pain may come in waves and change in intensity.
Most people feel the pain most intensely along their flank (the side and back below the ribs). Sometimes the pain moves as the stone moves through your urinary tract. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to the pain associated with kidney stones — tiny stones can be just as painful as larger stones when they move or create a blockage.
2. Fever and/or chills
Kidney stones can sometimes cause an infection. When coupled with other signs of kidney stones, fever and chills indicate you may have developed one along with your kidney stones. If you have a fever over 100.4°F or have chills with your fever, seek medical care.
3. Nausea and/or vomiting
The pain from kidney stones can be so intense it causes nausea and even vomiting. If this happens to you, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. Call our office or head to the nearest emergency room for immediate care.
4. Blood in your urine
Seeing blood in your urine isn’t normal, and when coupled with the other signs it can indicate kidney stones. Hematuria (blood in the urine) can also be a sign of other urinary tract issues, including a bladder infection or urinary tract infection. Be sure to schedule an appointment at Urological Associates if you see blood when you urinate.
5. Trouble with urination
Kidney stones can block the opening of your kidneys or get stuck in the ureter, causing trouble with urination beyond noticing blood in the toilet, including:
- Burning during urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Difficulty urinating
- Inability to empty your bladder
- Foul-smelling urine
Kidney stones may also cause your urine to appear cloudy.
What should I do if I suspect kidney stones?
If you experience any of the above signs, it’s important to discuss your symptoms with your Urological Associates provider as soon as possible. Early intervention helps you feel better faster and works to prevent serious complications from developing.
Fortunately, our team offers many treatment options for kidney stones. The best treatment depends on the nature and size of your stone. Your provider customizes a kidney stone treatment plan to fit your needs.
Small stones may pass naturally out of your body with increased fluids to help flush them out and pain medication to alleviate your discomfort. Larger stones may require medical intervention and may include one of the following treatments:
- Ultrasonic lithotripsy to break up the stones with sound waves
- Electrohydraulic lithotripsy to break up the stones with electrical shock waves
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy to break up stones using strong shock waves
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy to surgically remove kidney stones or pieces of stone not passed after lithotripsy methods
- Ureteroscopy to remove stones in the ureter using a small scope
Don’t wait to schedule an appointment if you have any of the signs of kidney stones. Book an appointment with a team member at Urological Associates by calling 434-295-0184 or schedule online now.