Stone disease is among the most painful and prevalent urologic disorders. More than a million kidney stone cases are diagnosed each year with an estimated 10 percent of Americans destined to suffer from kidney stones at some point in their lives.
Kidney stones form in one or both kidneys when the compounds found in urine—calcium, mineral salts, and uric acid—fuse together into crystals that then clump together to form larger pieces.
Although most kidney stones pass without pain or trauma within days, there are times when they require immediate medical attention. The ones that cause pain or discomfort are those that may require you to undergo treatment.
Kidney Stone Symptoms
Once stones form in the urinary tract, they often grow with time and may change location within the kidney. Some stones may be washed out of the kidney by urine flow and end up trapped within the ureter or pass completely out of the urinary tract. Stones may begin causing symptoms when they block the outflow of urine from the kidney leading to the bladder because it causes the kidney to stretch.
Usually, the symptoms are:
- Sharp, cramping pain in the back and lower abdomen, which may spread to the groin.
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- The need to urinate more often
- Burning sensation during urination
Stone size, the number of stones and their location are perhaps the most important factors in deciding the appropriate treatment for a patient with kidney stones. The composition of a stone, if known, can also affect the choice of treatments. Options for surgical treatment of stones include:
- Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
- Ureteroscopy (URS)
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PNL)
- Open or laparoscopic surgery (rare)
When to seek treatment?
Kidney stones are a common cause of extreme pain in the abdomen. While most kidney stones are small enough to pass through the urinary tract undetected, larger stones can get stuck and cause significant abdominal pain, or renal colic. Some large stones eventually pass through urination, but others may need special treatment to be broken up or to be removed through surgery.
If you notice blood in your urine, are experiencing pain with nausea, or vomiting, or are experiencing difficulty urinating, seek medical attention from your primary care provider or urologist. If you also are experiencing fever and chills, you should seek immediate evaluation at your local emergency department.