Kidney stones form inside kidneys; they are defined as hard deposits formed from salts and minerals. Other names of kidney stones are urolithiasis, renal calculi, and nephrolithiasis.
There are many causes of kidney stones, including certain medications, supplements, excess body weight, diet, and specific medical abnormalities. The impact of kidney stones can be seen on various parts of the urinary system such as the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Chemicals that form crystals in the urine and that are present in excessive amounts can lead to stone formation. Over several weeks or months, these crystals can transform into stones. The risk of stone formation becomes high when urine becomes concentrated; minerals become crystallized and stick together.
Symptoms of a kidney stone
In the case of a minor or tiny stone, you may not experience any symptoms while it goes through your urinary system. But a patient probably has some symptoms if a kidney stone is significant in size.
Pain in the back, belly, or side
Many individuals experience intense pain due to kidney stones, sometimes referred to as renal colic. Some kidney stone sufferers explain the pain as similar to the pain of giving birth or stabbing with a knife.
More than 500,000 people seek medical attention in emergency rooms yearly due to severe pain.
The pain usually starts when a stone enters the little ureter. As a result, there is a blockage, which raises kidney pressure. The pressure activates nerve fibers that convey pain signals to the brain. The sudden and quick onset of pain related to kidney stones is common. The pain shifts in various directions and intensity as the stone moves.
The ureter contracts as it tries to push the stone out, exacerbating the pain, frequently coming and going in waves. Each wave can persist for a few minutes before dissipating and returning.
Usually, the patient experiences pain behind the rib, along the side and back. The downward movement of the stone in the urinary canal causes pain to spread to the abdomen and buttocks.
Although larger stones may cause more intense pain than smaller ones, there isn’t always a connection between the two. Even a tiny stone that shifts or becomes obstructed can cause severe pain.
Pain or burning during urination
The patient may begin to experience pain when urinating once the stone has passed the ureter-bladder junction. The doctor may diagnose it as dysuria. The discomfort may be intense or acute. You can mistake a kidney stone for a UTI if you don’t know you have one. Along with the stone, an infection might occasionally be present.
Fever and chills
Kidney stones may also cause fever and chills. These may also be symptoms of infection in the kidney or other urinary tract organs. This is a kidney stone complication that may be pretty dangerous. In addition to kidney stones, it may also be an indication of more significant issues. Any fever accompanied by pain demands emergency medical care.
The typical high fever associated with an illness is 100.4 F (38 C) or higher. Shivering or chills often accompany fevers.
More symptoms of kidney stones appear when the stones move into the lower portion of the urinary tract, where it can create urine urgency. That’s why patients with kidney stones are always searching for washrooms.
Blood in the urine
Individuals with kidney stones commonly observe blood in their urine, known as hematuria. The color of blood present in the urine can be brown, red, or pink. Blood cells can only be observed with the help of a microscope, so a urologist must check the urine for blood under the microscope.
Cloudy or smelly urine
Usually, healthy urine is colorless and without any smell. Urine that is cloudy or smells bad may be indicative of an infection in the urinary tract, including the kidneys.
According to a study in 2021, 16% of individuals with acute kidney stones also had a UTI.
Cloudiness indicates pyuria or pus in the urine. The bacteria that cause UTIs may be the source of the smell. Urine that is more concentrated than usual may also have an odor.
Going a small amount at a time
In the ureter, sometimes large kidney stones get stuck. Urinary flow may be slowed or stopped by this obstruction. If you have a blockage, you might only be able to urinate a small amount each time. A complete cessation of urinating is a medical emergency.
Nausea and vomiting
Individuals with kidney stones frequently experience nausea and vomiting. The kidneys and GI tract share neural connections, which results in these symptoms. The stomach becomes upset when kidney stones affect GI tract nerves. Your body may experience nausea and vomiting in response to severe pain.
It’s essential to consult a doctor, particularly a urologist if women—or anyone—experience these symptoms. To determine the existence of kidney stones and ascertain their size, position, and the best course of therapy, the doctor will conduct a medical and symptomatic history, do a physical examination, and order the required tests.
The examinations might consist of blood tests (for uric acid, calcium, and phosphorus), testing for infections, blood cells, and stone-forming salt crystals, renal function examinations, and imaging examinations (including kidney ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans, and abdominal X-rays). After determining the occurrence of kidney stones, the urologist will suggest the best course of action.
Treatment of Kidney Stones
The healthcare professional designs the treatment regimen depending on the symptoms, severity, and type of stones. You should strain your urine so the stone may be preserved and tested.
- To produce a lot of urine, consume 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. This will assist in moving the stone.
- Pain may be very intense. For treating such severe pain, narcotic painkillers and over-the-counter painkillers (including ibuprofen and naproxen) may be helpful.
- Because of their severe and unbearable pain, several patients with kidney stones need hospitalization. You may need fluids administered through an IV.
- Your doctor could recommend medication for certain stones to help break down and eliminate the substance causing the stone, or to prevent stones from developing in the initial stages.
These medications include:
- Allopurinol (for uric acid stones)
- Antibiotics (for struvite stones)
- Sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate
- Thiazide (diuretic)