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What Does Pain From A Kidney Stone Feel Like

Pain That Comes And Goes In Waves And Changes In Intensity

Patient Story: Kidney Stones

As the kidney stone moves through your urinary tract, youll feel pain differently. With a backache, the pain is usually constant.

Kidney stone pain typically starts high up, near the kidney, migrates toward the abdomen and then eventually moves down toward the groin as the stone moves further down the ureter, says Mike Nguyen, MD, a urologist at Keck Medicine of USC and associate professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Kidney stone pain is typically severe and can be sharp or dull. It usually occurs suddenly, without any provoking events.

Mike Nguyen, MD

Urology At Tufts Medical Center Community Care

Tufts Medical Center Community Care is pleased to offer coordinated, community-based treatment to patients with kidney stones and other kidney disorders. Our team includes seasoned urologists who work hand-in-hand with primary care physicians and other specialists as necessary to ensure world-class care and support. And, with multiple easily accessible locations throughout north suburban Boston and prompt appointment availability, we make it simple to find relief from kidney stone pain. Contact Tufts Medical Center Community Care today to learn more.

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  • Treatment Of Kidney Stones

    For smaller kidney stones, pain relievers may be the only treatment needed. On average it takes five to seven days to pass a kidney stone, says Dr. Abromowitz. It may pass sooner. And if the stone is very high in the ureter, it can take up to two weeks.

    Larger stones that block urine flow or cause infection may require surgery, such as:

    • Shock-wave lithotripsy, a noninvasive procedure using high-energy sound waves to break stones into fragments that pass out in the urine
    • Ureteroscopy, in which an endoscope is inserted through the ureter to retrieve or break up the stone
    • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy, used for very large or irregularly shaped stones. For both procedures, a small incision is made in the back to provide access for a nephroscope, a miniature fiberoptic camera, and other small instruments. Your doctor then either removes the stone or breaks up and removes the stone .

    For ongoingprevention of recurring kidney stones, your doctor may prescribe increasing fluid intake, changing diet, controlling weight, and taking medication.

    To learn more about kidney stones, talk to your doctor or health care provider or search for a provider.

    Read Also: Is Torsemide Hard On The Kidneys

    How Long Can A Stone Stay In The Ureter

    A stone that’s smaller than 4 mm may pass within one to two weeks. A stone that’s larger than 4 mm could take about two to three weeks to completely pass. Once the stone reaches the bladder, it typically passes within a few days, but may take longer, especially in an older man with a large prostate.

    Can Kidney Stone Symptoms Come And Go

    Kidney stones in females photos

    The length of time a stone can hang around is the primary reason that a person may feel like kidney stone symptoms come and go.

    Once you start feeling the pain of a kidney stone, it can take anywhere between one to four weeks for the stone to actually pass. In the meantime, the pain can seem sporadic. Here’s why:

    “During a bout of kidney stones, the initial pain is typically caused by the stone making its way through your very narrow ureter tube. There can also be pain if the stone lodges itself there and blocks urine flow out of the kidney, which results in pressure buildup and painful swelling,” explains Dr. Kannady.

    As your body tries to move the kidney stone through your ureter, some of your pain may also be from the waves of contractions used to force the kidney stone out. The pain may also move as the kidney stone moves along your urinary tract.

    “Once the stone makes it to your bladder, the pain might subside to some degree and you may notice urinary symptoms in its place. The final push from your bladder to outside of your body can reignite sharp feelings of pain, as the stone is now passing through another narrow tube called your urethra,” says Dr. Kannady.

    Recommended Reading: Which Part Of Tomato Causes Kidney Stone

    How Can I Prevent Kidney Stones

    There are several ways to decrease your risk of kidney stones, including:

    • Drink water. Drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses every day . Staying hydrated helps you urinate more often, which helps flush away the buildup of the substances that cause kidney stones. If you sweat a lot, be sure to drink even more.
    • Limit salt. Eat less sodium. You may want to connect with a dietician for help with planning what foods you eat.
    • Lose weight. If youre overweight, try to lose some pounds. Talk to your healthcare provider about an ideal weight.
    • Take prescriptions. Your healthcare provider may prescribe some medications that help prevent kidney stones. The type of medication may depend on the type of stones you get.

    Symptoms Of A Kidney Stone

    Small stones move into the bladder and out of the body with minimal symptoms.

    Larger stones, though, can become lodged in the ureter, block urine flow and cause sharp pain in your back, side, lower abdomen or groin, and blood in your urine. Symptoms may also include burning urination, nausea, and fever. Fever could indicate a serious infection, a reason to call to your doctor immediately.

    The location of your pain signals the location of your kidney stone:

    Read Also: Does Keto Cause Kidney Stones

    What Color Is Urine When Your Kidneys Are Failing

    When kidneys are failing, the increased concentration and accumulation of substances in urine lead to a darker color which may be brown, red or purple. The color change is due to abnormal protein or sugar, high levels of red and white blood cells, and high numbers of tube-shaped particles called cellular casts.

    How Will I Know If I Passed A Kidney Stone

    What Does Passing a Kidney Stone Feel Like?

    When a kidney stone enters the bladder, any pain you may have felt while trying to pass the stone will significantly decrease. Instead of pain, you may feel pressure and the need to urinate frequently as your body tries to get rid of the stone. In most cases, you can assume the stone has passed completely once you begin to feel relief from your symptoms.

    Read Also: How Many Years Can A Person Live With One Kidney

    Read Also: Does Tylenol Hurt Your Kidneys

    Diagnosis Of Kidney Stones

    Many kidney stones are discovered by chance during examinations for other conditions. Urine and blood tests can help with finding out the cause of the stone. Further tests may include:

    • x-rays, including an intravenous pyelogram , where dye is injected into the bloodstream before the x-rays are taken.

    We asked ourselves that very question and tried to find out.

    Lots of things happen as we get older. We get fat. Our kidneys gradually lose their youthful glow. Both of these can lower the urine pH. We get diabetic, and that surely lowers urine pH. Do any of these account for what this figure shows us?

    How Do I Know If Its Kidney Pain

    It can be hard to distinguish between kidney pain and back pain.

    Back pain is more common than kidney pain. In general, back pain will be related to your muscles, occurs lower in your back, and causes a consistent ache.

    If its kidney pain, itll likely be higher, near your ribs. You may feel waves of severe pain and possibly have a fever. The pain may also be stronger on one side.

    Read Also: How Does Dialysis Help The Kidneys

    If You’ve Had A Stone The Problem Is Likely To Recur But It Doesn’t Have To Use These Strategies For Prevention

    The pain associated with kidney stones has been described by some as more excruciating than childbirth. Kidney stones are small, hard stones, formed when high levels of minerals in your urine start to crystallize in your kidneys, forming a pebble-like mass. The pain comes when these stones migrate from your kidneys through the ureters, which are the narrow tubes that carry urine from your kidneys into your bladder.

    “Kidney stone pain is not subtle,” says Dr. Gary Curhan, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It typically starts in the flank, at the side of the lower back. Sometimes if the stone moves, the pain migrates to the front of the body.

    Occasionally a stone gets stuck as it enters the bladder and causes symptoms such as a feeling of urgency or frequent urination that can be mistaken for a urinary tract infection or bladder irritation.

    There are actually several different types of kidney stones with different causes. The most common types are

    • struvite stones

    • cystine stones.

    The stones themselves vary in size, from as small as a grain of sand to as big as a golf ball.

    What Is A Kidney Stone

    Kidney Pain In Back Location

    Kidney stones are small, hard deposits of mineral and acid salts that form on the inner surface of the kidneys, Roger Sur, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center at UC San Diego Health, tells SELF.

    True to their name, kidney stones look like little pebbles that can vary in color , texture , and size , according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases . In rare nightmare scenarios, they can even reach the size of a golf ball .

    Kidney stones are made of minerals normally found in your pee, like calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus, that dont cause issues at low levels, the NIDDK explains. As these minerals start to accumulate and crystalize, they can begin to stick togetheroften when the urine becomes more concentrated, the Mayo Clinic explains, which can happen due to things like dehydration.

    Recommended Reading: Can People Die From Kidney Failure

    What Makes Some Kidney Stones More Painful Than Others

    Kidney stones can range from the size of a grain of sand to as big as a pea. Some are even as large as a ping-pong ball.

    Larger stones are less likely to pass and more likely to block the urinary tract, so they are generally more painful, says Lesser.

    The size of the stone is not necessarily proportional to the degree of pain, adds Dr. Maniam. Its possible for a large stone to remain in the kidney, not causing an obstruction or pain, and its possible for a small stone to pass without causing pain if it doesnt create a blockage.

    On the other hand, a person may have a small stone in the urinary tract that causes considerable pain because the ureter itself is so tiny, even a small stone can cause obstruction that creates an incredible amount of pain, Lesser notes.

    How Are Kidney Stones Diagnosed

    Your healthcare provider will discuss your medical history and possibly order some tests. These tests include:

    • Imaging tests: An X-ray, CT scan and ultrasound will help your healthcare provider see the size, shape, location and number of your kidney stones. These tests help your provider decide what treatment you need.
    • Blood test: A blood test will reveal how well your kidneys are functioning, check for infection and look for biochemical problems that may lead to kidney stones.
    • Urine test: This test also looks for signs of infection and examines the levels of the substances that form kidney stones.

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    When To Go To The Hospital For Kidney Stones

    Kidney stones usually arent damaging to your overall health, but some kidney stone symptoms may require you to visit your primary care provider or the emergency room. You should see a doctor right away if you experience:

    • Severe pain that makes it hard to get comfortable
    • Nausea and vomiting combined with pain
    • Fever and chills combined with pain
    • Blood in your urine
    • Difficulty passing urine

    Kidney Stone Treatment Options

    What Do Kidney Stones Feel Like? | Kidney Stone Remedies

    The key to treating kidney stones is to get the right diagnosis through imaging to see the size and location of the stone.

    The pain really comes from the stone blocking the collecting system within the kidney so urine cant get by. The obstruction causes the pain. So, to treat this, we work to reduce the pressure in the kidney, says Sweet.

    The first course of action is usually to treat the pain and reduce inflammation using medications to see if the stone will break down and pass on its own. If a stone wont pass, further treatment can reduce the pressure inside the kidney and reduce the risk of infection.

    Recommended Reading: Can A Kidney Stone Get Stuck In The Bladder

    Recommended Reading: What Kind Of Doctor Is A Kidney Doctor

    Where Is Kidney Stone Pain Located

    The sharp pain associated with a kidney stone moves as the stone progresses through your urinary tract. The most common places to feel pain are in your:

    • Lower abdomen or groin
    • Along one side of your body, below your ribs

    However, while pain is certainly the most noticeable symptoms of kidney stones, it’s not always the earliest sign or even the most telling sign, for that matter.

    “The pain associated with a kidney stone typically isn’t felt until after its already formed and is passing through your urinary tract,” explains Dr. Kannady. “In addition, due to differences in anatomy, men and women describe kidney stone pain slightly differently. Not to mention that pain itself is relative and everyone has a different threshold for it.”

    Plus, the intensity of the pain isn’t necessarily a measure of how problematic the kidney stone might be or become. Smaller stones that are likely to pass on their own can still be very painful. And not every kidney stone that requires medical intervention comes with gut-wrenching pain.

    “Any time you’re experiencing pain, it’s important to see your doctor. But if you’re experiencing pain, even if it’s only mind, in combination with the kidney stone symptoms above and, in particular, if you have a fever or severe trouble urinating it’s definitely important to see your doctor,” warns Dr. Kannady.

    Kidney Stone Pain: Firsthand Recollections Of The Experience

    Ive never had a kidney stone. I dont know what its like. Thats why I spent hours reading personal experiences to understand kidney stone pain better. Wikipedia told me the basics, and ArsTechnica, StraightDope, and Reddit gave me the personal stories and recollections that created an overall picture of how unpleasant and dreadfully painful kidney stones can be .

    Was bad enough that I left the party and went to myoffice and spent a large part of the night rolling backand forth on the floor in my cube debating calling my ex to come get me. Sheended up laughing, then took me to the hospital. I still owe her for helpingme.

    It was what I can imagine a knife stuck in my back beingtwisted all around would feel like.

    A female nurse told me it’s the worst pain a man canever feel, because a man can’t go through labor. I had mine when I was 25 itlooked like a coffee grain. Before it passed, I literally thought I was goingto die. They gave me a morphine shot right in the vein, and it didn’t do athing. They followed that with Vicodin and I passed out. I woke up a few hourslater feeling just ok.

    Someone told me that the pain from a kidney stone isclose to what a woman feels while having a baby. If that is true, I don’t blamethem at all for screaming.

    Also Check: Why Do We Need Kidneys

    Prevention Of Future Stones

    Once your health care provider finds out why you are forming stones, he or she will give you tips on how to prevent them. This may include changing your diet and taking certain medications. There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for preventing kidney stones. Everyone is different. Your diet may not be causing your stones to form. But there are dietary changes that you can make to stop stones from continuing to form.

    Diet Changes

    Drink enough fluids each day.

    If you are not producing enough urine, your health care provider will recommend you drink at least 3 liters of liquid each day. This equals about 3 quarts . This is a great way to lower your risk of forming new stones. Remember to drink more to replace fluids lost when you sweat from exercise or in hot weather. All fluids count toward your fluid intake. But it’s best to drink mostly no-calorie or low-calorie drinks. This may mean limiting sugar-sweetened or alcoholic drinks.

    Knowing how much you drink during the day can help you understand how much you need to drink to produce 2.5 liters of urine. Use a household measuring cup to measure how much liquid you drink for a day or two. Drink from bottles or cans with the fluid ounces listed on the label. Keep a log, and add up the ounces at the end of the day or 24-hour period. Use this total to be sure you are reaching your daily target urine amount of at least 85 ounces of urine daily.

    Reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
    Eat the recommended amount of calcium.

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