When Should You Go to the ER for Kidney Stones?

Seek immediate ER care for excruciating pain, blood in urine, vomiting, or inability to urinate, as these can indicate a kidney stone emergency when should you go to the er for kidney stones?

Kidney stones are a common issue that brings a lot of pain.1 Usually, you can handle them at home. But sometimes, it’s best to get help fast. The signs you might need emergency care are pretty clear. These include severe pain in your belly, back, or side. Also, look out for blood in your pee, a fever, chills, or feeling sick. Other red flags are throwing up, trouble peeing, or if the pain is too much even after taking meds.1 If you have these symptoms, it could mean a blockage or infection. In that case, go to the ER right away.1 The ER can figure out what’s wrong and start you on the best treatment. This is key to stop things from getting worse and making sure you heal well.

Key Takeaways

  • Kidney stones can be a medical emergency requiring prompt ER treatment.
  • Severe, uncontrolled pain, blood in urine, fever, and difficulty urinating are signs to seek immediate care.
  • Timely diagnosis and treatment help prevent serious complications from untreated kidney stones.
  • ER evaluation typically includes physical exam, blood work, and imaging tests.
  • Treatment options may involve pain medication, shockwave therapy, or surgery for larger stones.

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are solid masses made of minerals and salts. They form when there’s too much or too little water, salt, and minerals in the urine.1 These stones can take weeks or months to grow, ranging in size from small to entire kidney fillers.

Causes of Kidney Stones

Avoiding dehydration and balancing diets is key to preventing kidney stones.1 High-sodium and high-sugar diets, being overweight, diabetes, and family history can all increase stone risk. They change the urine’s mineral and salt levels, making stone formation more likely.

Types of Kidney Stones

The most frequent kind of kidney stone is calcium oxalate. But, stones can also be made of uric acid or struvite.1 Small stones may pass without help, but passing time depends on their size and where they are located.1

Dehydration. The biggest cause of kidney stones.2 More than half a million end up in the ER each year because of them. 1 in 10 people will have kidney stones in their life.2 And most, over 80%, are calcium stones.2 But cystine stones are very uncommon, making up less than 1% of all cases.2

Living in hot areas raises the risk for kidney stones because you might get dehydrated.2 Eating too much salt or sugar also plays a part in making these painful stones more likely.3

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can make you feel very sick, needing quick help from a doctor. The worst sign is a sharp pain in your belly, back, or sides.1 Many say it’s the most intense pain they’ve felt. It spreads to the groin as the stone moves.

Severe Pain

The pain from kidney stones is awful and can stop you in your tracks.1 It feels like waves and might mean something serious is happening. Getting help right away is very important.

Back and Flank Pain

Kidney stones also bring bad pain in your back or sides.1 This could be a warning that the stone is blocking the tube from your kidney to bladder, trapping urine inside.

Blood in Urine

Seeing blood in your urine is a sure sign you have kidney stones.1 The stone can scratch your urinary tract, making it bleed.

Nausea and Vomiting

If you get very nauseous and throw up with the pain, it could be kidney stones.1 These issues might make you dehydrated. It’s vital to see a doctor fast.

kidney stone symptoms

Identifying a Kidney Stone Emergency

Kidney stones can often be handled at home. But, some signs show you need emergency care.1These include a high fever, trouble urinating, bad-smelling urine, and intense pain not helped by common painkillers.1These signs may mean a serious problem needing quick medical help.

High Fever

A fever above 101.5°F might mean there’s an infection from a kidney stone.1Getting emergency help is important to stop the infection from spreading.

Difficulty Urinating

Problems with urinating could signal a stone is blocking the way.1It’s important to get help fast to clear the blockage.

Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine

If your urine is cloudy or smells bad, it might be a sign of infection from a stone.1Go to the ER right away to stop the infection.

Intolerable Pain

Kidney stones can hurt a lot, even if you take pain meds.1If your pain is very bad, it’s crucial to seek emergency care. They can help ease the pain and find the problem.

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When Should You Go to the ER for Kidney Stones?

Go to the ER for kidney stones if you have severe, uncontrollable pain. Also, if you see blood in your urine, have a fever and chills, persistent nausea, or vomiting.1

If you can’t pee or find your urine cloudy and foul-smelling,1 you should get medical help right away. These are signs of a serious kidney stone issue that needs quick treatment.1 Those with a history of kidney stones should be especially careful. If symptoms come back suddenly, go to the ER.

After a Ureteroscopy (URS), you can go home the same day.4 But after a Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL), you might stay overnight. Then, it’s one to two weeks before you’re back to normal.4

Stents, if used, are taken out between 4 to 10 days post-surgery.4 You might feel some discomfort or see blood in your urine while peeing after these procedures.4

If you have intense stomach pain, fever, chills, or see sudden urinary changes after kidney stone surgery, head to the emergency room.4

ProcedureRecovery Time
Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL)Same-day discharge in most cases4
Ureteroscopy (URS)Return home the same day4
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL)May need overnight hospital stay, return to normal activities within 1-2 weeks4
Stent removal4-10 days after the procedure4

Knowing the signs of a kidney stone emergency can lead to quick, effective treatment. This helps avoid serious problems and ensures a healthy recovery.1

Kidney Stone Diagnosis and Treatment

At the ER, the healthcare team will start with a physical exam to check for kidney stones. They may use X-rays or CT scans to find and see the stone’s location.4 Blood and urine tests help understand more about the stone. When they know what the issue is, the team will help manage the pain with medicines.

Imaging Tests

X-rays and CT scans are key in the diagnosis of kidney stones. These tests show the stone’s size, location, and type, which is vital for treatment planning.4

Pain Management

Relieving the intense pain from kidney stones is a major ER goal. Doctors might give NSAIDs or stronger painkillers to make the patient more comfortable.4 Passing stones can also cause urine with blood, which can add to the discomfort.4

Surgical Intervention

For large or obstructing stones, surgery may be needed. Shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, or percutaneous nephrolithotomy are common procedures. They help break up and take out the stone.4 Afterward, most patients can go home soon. But for some, it could take up to 1-2 weeks to recover, based on the surgery.

Kidney Stone Prevention

To prevent kidney stones, drink at least 8 glasses of water each day. This is more important in hot places or if you’re always moving.5 Dr. Tran suggests drinking about 3 liters daily to lower your risk.5.

6 It’s also wise to cut back on salty and sugary foods and drinks. Keeping a good body weight matters too.6 People with a family history of kidney stones, plus high blood pressure and diabetes, need to be extra careful. They should follow these steps closely.

Increase Water Intake

Keeping yourself hydrated is key to kidney stone prevention.5 Dr. Tran advises drinking 3 liters daily to lower your stone risk.6 Drinking lots of water and using heat packs can help 80% of stones pass without a problem.

Reduce Salt and Sugar Consumption

Eating less high-sodium and high-sugar foods can lower your kidney stone risk.6. Maintain a healthy weight for even more protection.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

6 Keeping a healthy weight helps fight off kidney stones.6 If you’ve got a family history or health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes, sticking to these tips is crucial.

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

There are key things that can raise your chances of getting kidney stones. High blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are top factors. Also, if someone in your family has had kidney stones, you might be more likely to get them too.

High Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure increases your risk of forming kidney stones.7 If you live in a warm area and tend to sweat a lot, you’re at a higher risk. This is because losing water through sweat can throw off your body’s mineral balance, making you more prone to developing stones. It’s important to live a healthy life and deal with any health issues. This helps lower the chance of getting kidney stones.

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If you have diabetes, your chance of getting kidney stones goes up.8 Certain diets, like high-protein or crash diets, can raise this risk even more. These diets are sometimes used by people with diabetes to help manage their blood sugar. It’s key for those with diabetes to eat a well-rounded diet and drink enough water. This helps prevent kidney stones.


Being obese, especially if you carry a lot of weight around your stomach, can make kidney stones more likely.8 Obesity connects with high blood pressure and diabetes, which adds to the risk. To lower your risk, aim to maintain a healthy weight through good food choices and regular physical activity.

Family History

If someone in your family has had kidney stones, you could be at risk too.8 Knowing about this family history can push you to make choices that lower your chances of getting kidney stones. A diet that’s kind to your kidneys and making sure you drink plenty of water are both helpful steps.

It’s smart to understand and deal with factors that up the odds of kidney stones. By knowing and acting on these risks, you can work towards avoiding kidney stones. And, of course, keeping your kidneys healthy is always a good goal.

Complications of Untreated Kidney Stones

Kidney stones not treated can cause many problems. They might block the urine’s path and cause a deadly urinary tract infection.1 The blockage and infection harm the kidneys over time, making them work poorly. This could lead to a chronic kidney disease.1

It’s crucial to get prompt medical help for kidney stones. This helps avoid serious complications and keeps your kidneys healthy in the long run.

Urinary Tract Infection

A kidney stone that doesn’t get treated can block the urinary tract. This can let bacteria grow, causing a serious UTI.1 UTIs with kidney stones show up with symptoms like fever, chills, and bad-smelling urine.1 Not treating these symptoms can lead to more problems.

Kidney Damage

The blockage and irritation from kidney stones can hurt the kidneys long-term.1 If urine’s flow is stopped, the kidneys might swell and get strained. This could damage their filtering ability forever.1 It raises the chance of getting chronic kidney disease, a dangerous condition if not treated in time.

Lifestyle Changes for Kidney Stone Prevention

To help prevent kidney stones, drink more water, eat less salt and sugar, and keep a healthy weight. Also, cut back on animal proteins. Eat more citrus fruits and veggies. Stay away from high-oxalate foods like spinach and beets. Exercise regularly to keep a healthy weight and kidneys.7

It’s advised to drink at least 3 liters of water daily to avoid forming kidney stones. For those prone to cystine stones, aim for 4 liters a day to lower cystine levels. Try not to have over 2,300 mg of salt each day to reduce certain stone risks.7

To lower your stone risk, make sure you get enough calcium from your diet. Health care providers say to have three to four servings of calcium-rich foods daily.7 For overall kidney health and to get important nutrients, eat at least five servings of fruits and veggies each day.

For those with too much oxalate in their urine, they might need to avoid certain foods like spinach and almonds.7

If you’re at risk of certain kidney stones, your doctor might advise eating less meat. They could also prescribe certain medications or supplements. This depends on the type of stone and your urine tests.7

When to Seek Medical Attention for Kidney Stones

If you think you have a kidney stone, see a doctor right away, even if it seems mild.1 Some small stones can pass if you drink enough and manage pain. But, larger stones or if they cause problems need quick care.9 See your doctor if you have severe pain, see blood in your pee, or notice pee changes.1 Getting help early can stop the stone from getting worse and causing more problems.

2 Over 500,000 people visit ERs yearly for kidney stones. More than one in ten will get them sometime.9 Both men and women, even kids but rarely, get kidney stones.2 It’s vital to seek help early because kidney stones can cause a lot of pain and harm if ignored.

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9 Signs of kidney stones are really bad pain, especially in the back or side. You might feel sick, see blood in your pee, or have a fever.2 Other symptoms are belly, back, or private area pain, and feeling like you need to pee a lot. For men, this might also include pain in the penis tip.1 If you have very bad belly pain and normal medicine doesn’t help, it might be an emergency.

2 Hospital care might be needed if you have a fever over 101.5°F, very bad pain, bad health conditions, pee pain, or see bad pee.9 Emergency signs include a high fever, pee pain, bad-smelling or looking pee, always throwing up, unbearable pain, and health problems like one kidney or diabetes.

Getting quick treatment for kidney stones is crucial. It helps find the right treatment to ease symptoms and avoid bad problems. No matter how bad or not your pain is, seeing a health pro is key for keeping your kidneys healthy.


Kidney stones are painful and sometimes dangerous. Knowing when to get help is crucial.10 Over half a million people go to the ER every year for this. Men have a 19% risk in their lifetime, while women have a 9% risk.10 If you have severe pain, a fever, trouble urinating, or other bad signs, go to the ER.11 Kidney stones strike about one in 11 Americans, leading to more ER visits over time.

Getting diagnosed and treated quickly is important.11 Over 90% of ER patients with kidney stones can go home after treatment. But one in nine might need to come back to the ER. Understanding the signs of a serious problem and working to stop new stones helps you stay healthy. It also saves you from needing costly or invasive treatments later.

10 Dehydration, diabetes, and certain diets increase the risk of kidney stones. So do digestive problems, a family history of kidney stones, and obesity.12 Calcium stones are the most common kind. By living healthy, staying hydrated, and treating any health issues, you might prevent kidney stones. This also lowers the chance of going to the ER for them.


When should you go to the ER for kidney stones?

Go to the ER if you have severe, uncontrollable pain from kidney stones. Look out for blood in your urine or if you have a fever and chills. If you feel really sick and can’t stop throwing up, this is also a sign.If you can’t pee, or your pee looks cloudy and smells bad, it’s time to get help. These signs might mean you need quick treatment to avoid big problems.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

Kidney stones often hurt a lot. You might feel a sharp, unbearable pain in your belly, back, or side. Some say it’s the worst pain they’ve ever felt. This pain can move down to your groin as the stone travels.Other signs include seeing blood in your pee, feeling sick, throwing up, or having trouble peeing. If you have these, you might have a kidney stone.

How are kidney stones diagnosed and treated?

Doctors will check you over and might do X-rays or CT scans at the ER. They want to see the kidney stone and where it is. You’ll also do blood and urine tests.Once they find the stone, they’ll focus on easing your pain. Meds can sometimes help. If a stone is too big or blocking, you might need surgery.

What can be done to prevent kidney stones?

Drinking plenty of water each day is a good start to avoid kidney stones. In warm places, or if you move a lot, you need even more water. Try to cut down on salty and sugary foods and drinks.It’s also key to keep a healthy weight. Those with a family history of stones or health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes should be extra careful about their lifestyle.

What are the risk factors for developing kidney stones?

High blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity put you at more risk of getting kidney stones. If your family has a history of them, you’re more likely to have them too. Living in hot areas or not drinking enough water makes it worse.

Source Links

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  3. https://tx-urgentcare.com/kidney-stones-when-to-go-to-urgent-care-services/
  4. https://www.urology.uci.edu/when_should_you_go_to_the_hospital_for_kidney_stones_kidney_stone_surgery_recovery.shtml
  5. https://www.lmhospital.org/articles/how-to-prevent-kidney-stones
  6. https://caprockhealthsystem.com/when-should-i-seek-medical-care-for-kidney-stones/
  7. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/k/kidney-stones
  8. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneystones
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  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4513641/
  12. https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-stones