Symptoms of stones

Stones in the kidney can cause:
  • A dull ache in the loin
  • Blood in the urine either visible or detected on urine testing
  • Urine infections (burning when passing urine, passing urine frequently, fever)
  • Testicular pain (because of pain radiating from the kidney)
  • Back ache/ pain
Stone pain is usually referred to as renal colic. This is due to the intermittent 'spasmodic' nature of the pain. It typically occurs in the loin or flank and can spread round to the groin on the same side. It is often constant with more severe spasms. Often it causes you to feel sick and it is not uncommon to vomit. It can build up rapidly or more slowly. In terms of severity it can vary from a mild ache to 'the worst pain ever' which is comparable to childbirth.

As the stone moves down the ureter (the pipe between the kidney and bladder), the pain often changes to the groin/ bladder pain and often causes a sense of needing to go to the toilet to pass urine. It is not uncommon to see some haematuria (blood in the urine).

Often small stones will pass on their own and require no treatment. It is useful to either keep a close eye on your urine to see if it comes out, or sieve your urine with a tea strainer or pair of tights.

The x-ray is an intravenous urogram (IVU) with the x-ray taken 20 minutes after the injection of intravenous contrast (dye). The arrows indicate the dye in the kidney, passing down the ureter to the bladder. It is not normal to be able to see all the ureter (as in this x-ray) and in this case it is because there is a small stone at the bottom of the ureter causing some delay to the dye.

Advice

If you experience renal colic then you should take some analgesia (pain killers). Often patients will have some at home from other stone episodes. The anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or diclofenac are very good for stone pain - although it is important to check that you are able to take these.

If the pain persists or you become unwell or feverish then you should attend the emergency department for assessment.

Many patients come to know their own ‘stone pain’ and can tell the doctor when they think they have a stone. They also come to recognise a dull ache which can be a sign of dehydration and often improves after drinking. If you feel you may have a stone even though you do not have typical ‘renal colic’ you should ask your doctor for advice and they can arrange an x-ray or ultrasound scan.

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