What Do Kidney Stones Feel Like?

Kidney stones are an incredibly common disorder of the urinary tract. A kidney stone is a hard mass that is developed from crystals that come from the urine in the urinary tract. Urine usually contains chemicals that stop these stones from forming, preventing the crystals from sticking together, but some people do not seem to have these chemicals in their urine, meaning that they form stones. Sometimes, kidney stones can be small enough that they pass through in your urine unnoticed, but other kidney stones can be very large and can cause pain and other damage to the urinary tract.

So what do kidney stones feel like? Well, some kidney stones actually do not cause any symptoms, and these kidney stones are known as ‘silent stones’. Kidney stones that cause symptoms will be characterized by a number of symptoms, including sudden onset of excruciating pain in the groin, lower back, side or abdomen. This pain typically comes and goes in waves, but changes in body position will not ease the pain at all. As the pain is often very severe, it can be accompanied by feelings of nausea and vomiting.

Kidney stones also often cause blood in the urine, along with difficulty in urinating, pain whilst urinating, penile pain/testicular pain and, if an infection is present along with the kidney stones, a fever and chills are also common. If you’re able to pass the stone yourself, it will feel a little like a piece of grit or a small stone moving through your urinary tract. If you cannot pass the stone yourself, you’ll likely experience a large amount of pain – but luckily, a procedure can be performed, known as lithotripsy, which is where shock waves are used to break up a large stone into smaller stones that you can pass yourself.

Stones that are 4mm wide have an 80% chance of passing naturally, whereas stones that are 5mm have just a 20% chance of passing. Stones that are 9-10mm wide have very little chance of passing naturally, but to boost your chances of passing a stone naturally, you need to keep very hydrated and drink plenty of fluids.

To control kidney pain symptoms at home, all you can do is take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Ibuprofen. If that doesn’t hit the spot, stronger narcotic painkillers may be needed, such as Toradol which is an injectable anti-inflammatory drug. Intravenous medication can be given if the pain is particularly severe and nausea and vomiting are present.

A number of medications are also available to increase the chances of passing kidney stones, including calcium channel blockers such as nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia, Afeditab, Nifediac) or alpha blockers such as Flomax. These medications will soften the stones and help them to break down in the urinary tract so that lithotripsy doesn’t have to be performed.

When all other treatment options have been exhausted and if you still haven’t passed your kidney stones, surgical intervention may need to be used. These surgical intervention methods include a small incision being made in the skin, or through an instrument known as a ureteroscope, which is passed through the urethra and the bladder up into the ureter.

Luckily, kidney stones can be prevented, so the best way to treat them is to employ a tactic of prevention. You should always keep well-hydrated, as this will prevent stones from forming, and you could also make some dietary changes such as limiting your sodium intake. This means limiting overly salty or processed food and trying to eat foods that are fresh or made from fresh foods rather than packaged. Speak to your doctor for more details on kidney stones.