Ever felt a sharp pain in your lower back that seems to come out of nowhere? Chances are it could be a kidney stones, and unfortunately, they’re pretty common. Kidney stones form when chemicals in your urine crystallize, creating hard deposits. The good news is, there are usually warning signs that a stone is present so you can get ahead of the pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your doctor right away. They may order some tests to check if a stone is the culprit, and the sooner you catch it, the sooner you can get treatment and relief.
Pain in the Lower Back or Side
The first sign that you may have kidney stones is pain in your lower back or side. We’re talking a sharp, cramping pain that comes in waves and just won’t seem to go away. The pain often starts suddenly and is severe enough to make you stop what you’re doing.
As the stones move through your urinary tract, the pain typically shifts location and intensity. You may feel it in your lower abdomen, groin area, or genitals. The pain can come and go over a few hours or even days. Sometimes it’s accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Other common symptoms to watch for include:
- Blood in your urine, which can range from pink to bright red. Don’t panic, but do see your doctor right away.
- Difficulty urinating or only passing small amounts. The stones may be blocking your urinary tract.
- A persistent need to urinate, even right after you’ve gone.
- Pain while urinating, especially at the end of the stream.
- Restlessness or irritability. The excruciating pain from stones can make anyone feel out of sorts.
If you experience any of these symptoms, go to your nearest urgent care center or emergency room immediately. Kidney stones are extremely painful and can cause damage if left untreated. The good news is doctors can usually provide instant relief from the pain and help you pass the stones or remove them altogether. The sooner you get checked out, the sooner you’ll be feeling like yourself again.
Blood in the Urine
If you notice blood in your urine, it could be a sign that kidney stones are forming or passing. Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in your kidneys, and they can cause damage as they move through your urinary tract.
Blood in the urine, known as hematuria, is usually one of the first symptoms of kidney stones. The stones can irritate the walls of your kidneys and ureters (the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder), causing bleeding. The blood may be bright red or dark brown in color. Don’t panic, though – blood in the urine doesn’t always mean you have kidney stones, but you should contact your doctor right away for an accurate diagnosis.
Other common symptoms of kidney stones include:
• Severe pain in your back, side, lower abdomen, or groin that comes in waves and may change location. The pain can be excruciating and may come on suddenly.
• Pain or burning during urination.
• Cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
• Nausea and vomiting.
• Fever or chills if there is also an infection.
If you experience these symptoms, especially blood in the urine along with severe pain, you could have kidney stones. Call your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room. They can run tests to determine if stones are present and may be able to provide medication for pain relief and help you pass the stones. The sooner you get checked out, the sooner you can get on the road to recovery and prevent future kidney stones.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are two of the earliest signs that you may have kidney stones. As the stones move through your urinary tract, they can block the flow of urine and irritate the surrounding tissue. This irritation triggers your body’s nausea reflex, leading to queasiness and throwing up.
Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach is one of the first indicators that something may be wrong with your kidneys or urinary tract. The nausea tends to come in waves, especially if the stone is on the move. It may be accompanied by a loss of appetite, as eating will likely only make the queasiness worse. If the nausea is persistent or severe, see your doctor right away, as dehydration can quickly become life-threatening without treatment.
Throwing up, or vomiting, is your body’s way of expelling the contents of your stomach when you’re overcome with nausea. As with the nausea, the vomiting will often come and go in spells. What you bring up is typically bile, as you likely won’t have eaten much due to the queasiness. The vomiting can quickly lead to dehydration if left untreated, so consult your doctor if you’re throwing up repeatedly or unable to keep any fluids down.
- They may prescribe anti-nausea medication to relieve your symptoms and prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
- Getting IV fluids may also be necessary to restore hydration, especially if you’ve been dealing with nausea and vomiting for more than a couple of hours.
- Kidney stones usually pass on their own within 48 hours, but the nausea and vomiting they cause requires prompt medical attention to avoid potentially serious complications.
Call your doctor right away or go to an urgent care clinic or emergency room if you experience severe, persistent nausea; are unable to keep any fluids down; or notice blood in your vomit. Kidney stones are painful enough without the added misery of nausea and vomiting—get the relief you need so you can start to feel better faster.
Fever and Chills
If you start experiencing fever or chills along with kidney stone symptoms, it could indicate a kidney infection and you should see your doctor right away.
A fever is usually one of the first signs of an infection. If you have a high temperature of 101 F or higher that lasts for more than a day or two, it’s best to get checked out. A fever means your body is working hard to fight an infection, and with kidney stones blocking the urinary tract, bacteria have an easy pathway to enter the kidneys.
Chills or a shaking sensation are your body’s way of generating heat when it’s having trouble keeping its temperature regulated. Along with a fever, chills can indicate your body is putting up a strong immune response to an infection. Don’t ignore these symptoms, as a kidney infection requires prompt medical treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications.
Other symptoms of a possible kidney infection include:
- Nausea or vomiting: Feeling sick to your stomach is a common sign of infection.
-Pain in your back, side, or groin: Pain from a kidney stone may become more intense or change locations if an infection develops.
-Cloudy or bloody urine: Urine that is dark, cloudy, or contains blood can indicate an infection of the kidneys or urinary tract.
-Increased urge to urinate: Needing to urinate more often or feeling like you have to go but only passing a small amount of urine are signs of a UTI or kidney infection.
If a high fever, chills, or other symptoms of infection appear along with your kidney stone pain, don’t delay in contacting your doctor. A kidney infection requires prompt treatment, usually with a course of antibiotics, to avoid complications and prevent the infection from becoming severe. Call your doctor right away for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss appropriate treatment options based on the specifics of your condition.
How to Prevent Kidney Stones
Once you’ve experienced kidney stones, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid another painful episode. The good news is there are several measures you can take to help prevent future kidney stones.
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to prevent kidney stones. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day to keep your urine diluted. This makes it harder for stones to form. Some other options to increase your fluid intake include flavored waters, herbal tea, and sugar-free beverages.
Eat a balanced diet
A balanced diet that’s high in fiber and low in salt, sugar, and animal protein can help prevent kidney stones. Focus on eating more:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables which provide fiber, vitamins and minerals
- Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal
- Legumes such as beans, lentils and nuts for plant-based protein
- Limit red meat and instead choose fish and poultry in moderation
- Avoid sugary and high sodium foods which can promote stone formation
Maintain a healthy weight
If you are overweight or obese, losing excess pounds can help lower your risk of kidney stones. Extra weight tends to increase the concentration of stone-forming minerals in your urine. Losing weight through diet and exercise is the best approach.
Talk to your doctor about medications
In some cases, medications may be recommended to help prevent kidney stones from forming. Your doctor can determine if potassium citrate or allopurinol are appropriate based on the type of stones you tend to develop. These medications work by changing the levels of certain minerals and chemicals that build up stones.
Making lifestyle changes and following the prevention tips recommended by your doctor can significantly lower your chances of dealing with kidney stones again. Be vigilant and committed to keeping those painful stones away for good.
So there you have it, the first signs that those pesky kidney stones may be forming or moving in your body. Pay attention to any changes or pain in your kidney area, especially if you notice blood in your urine or have a hard time urinating. The sooner you catch kidney stones forming, the easier they are to pass or treat. If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t delay—see your doctor right away for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
Kidney stones are no fun, but catching them early can help make the process of passing them or surgically removing them less painful and complicated. Your kidneys work hard for you every day, so show them some love by staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and listening to what your body is telling you.