Kidney stones are fairly common, and data show they’ve been increasing in prevalence over the past several years. In fact, every year, roughly 2 million Americans seek outpatient care for a symptomatic stone, a 40% increase over the past four decades.
Kidney stones happen when minerals or other substances form hard, stony concretions that prevent urine from moving normally. About 11% of men and 7% of women will have at least one stone during their lives.
Alfred Shtainer, MD, FACS, is a leading provider of kidney stone treatment for patients at Adult and Pediatric Urology in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, New York. In this post, learn about three early warning signs that could mean you have a kidney stone.
1. Pain in your back or side
One of the most common signs of a kidney stone is pain in your lower back or your side. The pain might feel like a dull ache, persistent throbbing, or sharp “stabbing.” The intensity of the pain and its location can vary as the stone moves through the urinary tract.
Sometimes, a stone gets stuck inside the ureter (a tube that drains urine from the kidney to the bladder). When that happens, urine backs up in your kidneys, causing a sensation of pressure in your lower back or groin area.
Symptoms may come on gradually with pain building in intensity over time, or the pain may begin suddenly with no warning. Pain can also vary based on the size of the stone.
2. Nausea or vomiting
While not as common as pain, nausea and vomiting can also be early warning signs. Sometimes, feelings of nausea are triggered by intense or throbbing pain associated with the stone.
Other times, they can develop as part of your body’s overall response to the stone and being unable to pass urine. If there’s an infection, you might also develop a fever or chills.
3. Changes in your urine
One of the most obvious signs of a kidney stone is decreased urine output or even an inability to urinate if the stone is completely blocking the ureter. Other people may feel frequent urges to urinate caused by irritation as the stone moves through the urinary tract.
You may also feel pain or burning sensations when you urinate. Sometimes, urine has a brownish or pinkish tinge, an indication of blood in your urine. If bacteria are present, urine has a foul smell or looks cloudy.
Relief for kidney stones
While kidney stones can definitely be painful, the good news is many stones pass on their own. When a stone doesn’t move, we may prescribe medications or other therapies like shockwave therapy or laser treatment to gently break apart the stone and allow the fragments to pass. These treatments use state-of-the-art technology, and most patients resume their regular activities the next day.
If you have kidney stones frequently, we may recommend dietary changes or other lifestyle changes to help prevent stone formation in the future. Dr. Shtainer evaluates your stones under a microscope to determine which type of stone you have, so your therapy can be tailored to your specific needs.
Without proper, prompt care, some kidney stones can cause serious infections or permanent kidney damage. If you think you have a kidney stone, or if you want to prevent future stones, book an appointment online or over the phone at Adult and Pediatric Urology today.