Kidney Stone Symptoms: Warning Signs and Treatment Options

Kidney stone symptoms include severe pain in the back or abdomen, bloody urine, nausea, vomiting, fever, and frequent urge to urinate. Learn the warning signs and treatment options.

Kidney stones are hard deposits in the kidneys, made of minerals and salts. They happen to about 1 in 11 people in the United States, making it a common issue.1 These stones can create a lot of pain in the back or stomach. Other signs are blood in the urine, feeling sick, and throwing up.1 Things like not drinking enough water, diet, being overweight, and health illnesses can make them more likely to occur.1 It’s crucial to get the right medical tests to find the stone type and decide the best treatment.

The treatment could involve taking painkillers, drinking more water, or having medical procedures to get rid of the stones. If you notice any symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor quickly. This helps in reducing the pain and stopping any further problems.

Key Takeaways

  • Kidney stones are a common health issue affecting 1 in 11 people in the U.S.
  • Symptoms include severe pain, blood in urine, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Risk factors include dehydration, diet, obesity, and certain medical conditions.
  • Proper diagnosis through imaging and lab tests is important for treatment.
  • Treatment options include pain medication, increased fluid intake, and procedures to remove stones.

What is a Kidney Stone?

Kidney stones are hard objects made of minerals and salts. These form in your kidneys. When lots of certain minerals or salts are in your urine, like calcium, oxalate and uric acid, stones can form. They gather and harden over time.

Formation and Composition

The main kidney stone type is calcium oxalate. It happens when oxalate sticks to calcium. This happens as your kidneys make urine. You can also get calcium phosphate stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones.1 The kind of stone tells us a lot. It helps figure out why it formed and how to treat and prevent it.

Types of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones come in many forms, each with different chemical makeup. The most frequent is a calcium oxalate stone. Other kinds are calcium phosphate, uric acid, and cystine stones.1 Knowing the stone type is key. It tells the doctor what steps to take. This could be preventing more or treating the current stone.

Kidney Stone TypeCharacteristics
Calcium OxalateCommon type, formed when oxalate sticks to calcium in the urine.
Calcium PhosphateForms when calcium and phosphate levels are high in urine.
Uric AcidForms in those who dehydrate, eat lots of protein, or have certain health conditions.
CystineResults from a genetic issue that increases cystine in the urine.

Finding out the specific type of kidney stone helps a lot. It shows why the stone formed. It also helps plan how to best treat and stop more stones. This can tell you a lot about the risks you may face and how to prevent them.

Kidney Stone Symptoms

Kidney stones might not show any signs at first. But, when they start to move in the urinary tract, you’ll feel it. The pain can be harsh, like cramps, in your back, stomach, or groin.1 It comes and goes, changing in how strong it is.1

Severe Pain

The pain from kidney stones can be really bad. It’s a sharp, wave-like feeling that moves from your back or stomach to your groin. This can be so intense that finding a comfy spot is hard.

Blood in Urine

If you see pink, red, or brown urine, you might have kidney stones.1 The stones can scratch the urinary tract as they move, causing the blood.

Nausea and Vomiting

Kidney stone pain might make you feel sick and throw up.1 The pain and strain from the stones can cause this. It adds more discomfort for the patient.

Symptoms change based on the stone’s size and where it is.1 It’s key to get help fast because the pain can be extreme. Leaving kidney stones untreated can result in more serious problems.

kidney stone symptoms

Causes of Kidney Stones

Many factors can raise your chances of getting kidney stones. Not drinking enough water is a big one. This makes minerals and salts in your pee too strong.1


Forgetting to drink water can up your risk of kidney stones. This is especially true if you’re in hot, dry areas or sweat a bunch.1 If your urine is dark, you need to drink more.2

Diet and Lifestyle Factors

What you eat and how you live matter too. Diets high in salt, protein, or sugar, as well as being overweight, can help form kidney stones.1 Eating a lot of animal protein can make your urine more acidic, upping the stone risk.2

High-protein diets for losing weight are also risky, especially if they’re heavy on animal products.2

Medical Conditions

Some health problems can also change the balance of your urine. This makes it more likely for stones to form. Things like bowel issues, long-term diarrhea, and rare genetic disorders can all mess with this.1 For example, a genetic issue can lead to cystine stones.1

If you have folks in your family who’ve dealt with kidney stones, or if you’ve had them yourself, your risk goes up.1

Diagnosing Kidney Stones

Healthcare providers usually start with a physical exam and questions about your symptoms to find kidney stones.1 Imaging tests like a CT scan, ultrasound, or x-ray are next. These show the stones, their size, and where they are in the urinary tract.3

Imaging Tests

Special CT scans can find very small kidney stones, but simple X-rays aren’t always good at this.3 The images from these tests provide a detailed view of the stones and their location in the kidneys or urinary system.

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Urine and Blood Tests

Urine tests help identify what the stones are made of, which helps find the cause.3 Blood tests check for high levels of substances that can cause stones. Examining a stone that passed can also offer clues and help prevent more stones.

A fast and correct diagnosis is critical for treating kidney stones effectively.1 Using both imaging and lab tests, doctors figure out the best way to treat the stones and stop them from coming back.

Kidney Stone Diagnostic Tests

Treatment Options

Kidney stone treatment aims to handle the pain and let the stone pass. For mild to moderate pain, start with over-the-counter pain relievers.2 Drinking a lot of water helps flush out the urinary system, aiding in stone passage.2 If the stone is bigger or the pain more severe, doctors might suggest stronger painkillers or meds to relax the ureter. These help the stone move out.3

Pain Management

When a stone gets stuck or causes issues, more advanced treatments could be necessary. This includes methods like shock wave lithotripsy to break stones or ureteroscopy to take them out.3 The best treatment depends on the stone’s size, where it is, and what it’s made of.

Procedures to Remove Stones

High levels of certain substances in a blood test might signal kidney stone chances.3 The 24-hour urine test helps check for mineral imbalances or prevention agents.3 CT scans can find even small stones, and ultrasounds are fast and painless but effective at spotting kidney stones.3

ESWL uses sound waves to pulverize kidney stones. This method takes about 45 to 60 minutes.3 For larger stones, there’s percutaneous nephrolithotomy, a surgery that requires a small back incision.3

Preventing stones includes drinking enough water and limiting foods high in oxalates and salt.3 Depending on the type of stone, doctors may prescribe thiazide diuretics, allopurinol, or antibiotics.3

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you think you have a kidney stone, it’s vital to see a doctor right away. Look out for intense, constant pain in your back, belly, or around your private parts. Also, if you see blood in your pee, feel like throwing up, or struggle to pass water, it’s time to get help.4 Seek immediate care if the pain doesn’t let you rest, you have a fever and feel cold, or can’t pee at all. Not getting help for a kidney stone can harm your kidneys or cause an infection. So, it’s key to check in with a healthcare provider as soon as you can.

Go straight to the ER if the pain in your stomach is unbearable, especially with a fever or feeling cold.5 Quick medical help is crucial in stopping more pain, avoiding big problems, and making sure stones don’t come back.

When to See a DoctorWhen to Go to the ER
  • Severe, persistent pain in the back, abdomen, or groin
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Excruciating abdominal pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Sudden changes in urinary patterns
  • Complete inability to urinate

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Several things can make a person more likely to get kidney stones. Having a family member who had them before can raise your risk. This might be because of shared genes and eating habits.1 Also, being overweight and not moving much can mess up what’s in your pee, making stones more likely.1

If you’ve dealt with gut issues or had stomach surgery that changes how your body absorbs stuff, you might be at a higher risk for kidney stones.1 And certain meds, health problems like diabetes or gout, plus a diet full of salt, sugar, and animal products can up the chances of getting stones.1

Family History

If kidney stones run in your family, you might get them too. It’s all about what you inherit and what you eat.1


Being too heavy and not exercising can mess with your urine’s makeup. This makes kidney stones more likely to form.1

Digestive Diseases

Gut problems or stomach surgery that changes how you absorb minerals can set the stage for kidney stones.1

Knowing and dealing with these risk factors is the best way to avoid kidney stones.1 Talking with your doctor and making healthy changes can lower your chances of having this problem.

risk factors for kidney stones

Prevention of Kidney Stones

One key way to prevent kidney stones is to drink lots of water.2 It’s advised for most to drink over 12 glasses daily. This helps dilute the urine and push out harmful minerals.4 Drinking at least 3 liters daily is recommended, and some may need 4 liters if they’re prone to certain types of stones.

Eating the right foods can lower your risk of kidney stones.2 Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet. They make urine less acidic. Be cautious with animal protein; it can raise urine acidity and stone risk.2 Too much salt could also cause stones, so cut back. Keeping salt intake under 2,300 mg a day is wise if you’re at risk due to high urine calcium or cystine.

2 It’s surprising, but low dietary calcium makes kidney stones more likely. So, be sure to get enough calcium. Health experts say to aim for just the right amount of calcium, not too much or too little.4 Including five servings of fruits and veggies in your meals daily helps too. They provide essential nutrients that can ward off kidney stones.

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2 Calcium oxalate stones top the list as the most common kidney stones. For those with high urine oxalate, watching your diet is key. Eat foods rich in calcium to control oxalate levels. You might need to cut back on oxalate-rich foods like spinach, rhubarb, and almonds.4 If you’ve got high urine oxalate, the same advice applies: go for more calcium-rich foods and less high-oxalate foods.

4 If you’re at risk for certain stone types, like cystine or calcium oxalate, you might need to eat less animal protein. This is especially the case if your urine shows high uric acid levels.

4 Sometimes, healthcare providers will prescribe medicines or supplements to help keep kidney stones at bay. For example, for calcium stones, you might get thiazide diuretics. For other stone types, like cystine stones, you may need cystine-binding thiol drugs. Just be wary of vitamin supplements, as some could actually raise your risk of kidney stones.

Seeing a healthcare provider or dietitian if you’ve had kidney stones before, or if you’re at risk, is a smart move.2 They can guide you with the right diet and steps to take. This guidance is key in preventing kidney stones and avoiding their recurrence.

Complications of Untreated Kidney Stones

Untreated kidney stones can cause serious problems. They may move and block your urine.6 This can lead to severe pain and even kidney damage or infection. If not treated, they cause strong stomach pain, make you feel sick, and can harm your kidneys.6

Stones stuck in the urinary tract need immediate help.6 Without it, they can hurt your kidneys or stop the urine. Also, they make you more likely to get stones again. Sometimes, large stones can break the kidney. So, getting treatment early is very important. It helps stop more pain, serious illnesses, and future stones.

7 In the U.S., about 600,000 new cases of kidney stones are found each year. The elderly are at a higher risk of dying or getting sick from kidney stones.7 This is because they often take drugs or vitamins that change how their body works. Not treating kidney stones can harm your kidneys. It can also cause infections and make you more likely to get stones again.

7 It’s estimated that 1 in 10 will get kidney stones at least once. And7 about half a million visit the ER yearly because of them.7 In the U.S., 10% of people will have kidney stones. Quick medical care is key to deal with the pain, stop complications, and lower the risk of more stones.

Kidney Stones in Children

Kidney stones are more likely in grown-ups but don’t skip children. Lately, more kids are getting them. This may be because of what they eat and how they live.8 Even though not many children get kidney stones, the cases are on the rise.9

The signs and reasons for kidney stones in kids are a lot like in grown-ups. They can cause a lot of pain, blood in the pee, and things that make stones happen.10 A child with kidney stones might feel bad in the back, sides, stomach, or private parts. They could also see blood in their pee.10 But little kids might seem just a little sick.8

Finding and fixing kidney stones in kids is a bit different. Kidney stones in kids need special care.10 Doctors use signs, past health, and tests to know for sure.10 At Boston Children’s Hospital, they might try non-surgery or small cuts for treatment.8

Some kids are more at risk if stones run in the family or with health issues.9 Most kidney stones in kids come from body issues, pee infections, or kidney problems.9 Drinking enough water and eating well can help keep pediatric kidney stones away.8

Recovering from Kidney Stones

Passing a kidney stone can be painful but is usually not life-threatening. Recovery takes time and might need you to adjust your lifestyle. After passing a stone, you might feel pain in your back, stomach, or groin.11 Using pain meds from the store can make this easier. It’s vital to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. This helps stop more stones from forming.2

Sometimes, doctors will suggest you change your diet or take medicine to lower your risk of more stones.2 It’s key to see your doctor after and do what they say. This helps you get better and stops the stones from coming back.11

Drink 2-1/2 liters of water per dayHelps prevent kidney stones by diluting the urine and flushing out excess minerals and salts.11
Limit animal protein to 6-8 ounces per dayHigh-protein diets can increase the risk of kidney stone formation.11
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetablesFruits and vegetables are low in oxalate and can help prevent stone development.11
Follow a low-salt dietReducing sodium intake can help decrease the amount of calcium in the urine, reducing stone risk.11
Limit sugar consumptionHigh sugar intake has been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones.11
Be cautious with vitamin C supplementsLarge doses of vitamin C can increase the risk of oxalate stones.11

Patients who follow these steps with their healthcare team are more likely to recover well from kidney stones. They also lower the chance of getting them again.11

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Myths and Misconceptions

There are many myths about kidney stones and misconceptions about kidney stones. These myths can confuse people and lead to wrong treatment. A common myth is that if you’ve had a kidney stone once, you’ll get them again.12 Having had a stone does increase your risk, but it doesn’t mean you’re sure to have more. People mistakenly think that all stones come from too much calcium. But, different types of kidney stones exist, with different materials.13

Some think home remedies like beer can fight off kidney stones. But really, the best method is to drink more water.13 Cutting out dairy isn’t the key, either. Instead, people should moderate their calcium intake.13

It’s better to trust what your doctor tells you than home cures.1213 Kidney stones won’t go away on their own. They can even get bigger and cause worse problems if not treated.13 By learning the truth and ditching the myths about kidney stones and misconceptions about kidney stones, you can manage and prevent them effectively.

Latest Research and Advancements

Researchers are looking into better ways to deal with kidney stones. They have started using improved imaging methods like dual-energy CT scans. These scans can show more about the stones themselves.14 This makes it easier to plan treatments just for you. Doctors are also checking out new drugs and supplements to stop stones from growing. Plus, surgeries like taking out stones with a tiny camera are more available. They cause less pain.14 With more and more knowledge, doctors can make special plans to avoid kidney stones in people who are likely to get them.1

Recent studies have discovered that some foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and chocolate are high in oxalate. This can lead to calcium stones.1 Scientists are now testing herbal extracts to stop certain stones from growing.14 They are also learning more about who is more at risk of getting kidney stones. For example, being overweight is linked to developing stones.14 These findings help doctors come up with specific ways to prevent stones in patients.

As more people get kidney stones,14 it’s important to have the latest tools and strategies to fight this health problem. This is why staying informed about new research is key. Doctors can use this knowledge to help you lower your chances of getting kidney stones. And to keep your urinary system healthy in general.


Kidney stones are a common and painful health issue affecting many in the U.S.15 Knowing the symptoms and causes is vital. This can help get medical help early and prevent them.16 Though painful, most cases are treatable with pain relief, more water intake, and sometimes surgery. Ongoing studies aim to make diagnosis and treatments better. Working with doctors can lower the chances of getting kidney stones15 and reduce their negative effects on health.

It’s crucial to drink plenty of water and adjust your diet to avoid substances that cause stones.15 Getting quick medical help if you face symptoms is essential.16 Understanding the signs, reasons, and treatment choices empowers individuals. It helps them tackle this health issue and live better.


What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are hard bits formed in the kidneys from minerals and salts. They happen to about 1 in 11 folks in the U.S.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

They can cause awful back or stomach pain. Also, spotting in urine, feeling sick, and throwing up.

What causes kidney stones?

Not drinking enough water, wrong diets, being too heavy, and certain health issues are big causes.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

Doctors use pictures from scans and urine/blood tests to find stone types. This helps to plan the best treatment.

How are kidney stones treated?

You might take pain killers, drink more water, or have surgery to get rid of them.

When should someone seek medical attention for kidney stones?

Folks should see a doctor right away when they have kidney stone signs. Quick help can ease pain and stop big problems.

Who is at risk for developing kidney stones?

Not drinking enough, poor diet choices, being obese, and some health problems can bump up your chances. So can family history and genes.

How can kidney stones be prevented?

To dodge stones, drink a lot, eat right, and take care of your health issues.

What are the potential complications of untreated kidney stones?

Ignoring them can lead to intense pain, hurt kidneys, infections, and more stones later.

Can children develop kidney stones?

Yes, and it’s happening more. Even kids can get kidney stones sometimes.

What is the recovery process like after passing a kidney stone?

You might feel a bit of pain, so keep drinking water and maybe change what you eat. This can stop more stones from coming back.

Are there any myths or misconceptions about kidney stones?

People think all stones come from too much calcium. There’s also the idea that if you had one stone, you’ll get more.

What are the latest advancements in kidney stone research and treatment?

Science is finding new ways to spot, medicate, and remove stones without a lot of fuss.

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