Each year, over 500,000 Americans visit emergency rooms for kidney stones. The likelihood of developing a kidney stone has steadily increased over the past several decades — today, one in 11 individuals will develop a kidney stone during their lifetime.
The formation of these hardened minerals and salts can affect any part of the urinary tract — from the kidney to the bladder. Often characterized by extreme abdominal pain, kidney stones normally remain harmless to the structure of an individual’s urinary tract health, and are commonly passed without medical intervention. Many individuals may pass kidney stones without ever knowing they were present in their system.
Four main types of kidney stones affect individuals:
Calcium stones – The most common form of kidney stones, calcium stones usually form due to high levels of oxalate being present in the body. Diet, vitamin D, and intestinal bypass surgery are popular causes for oxalate buildup.
Struvite stones – As a response to infection in areas like the urinary tract, struvite stones can form quickly and grow to large sizes.
Uric acid stones – Often the result of little water intake, high-protein diets, and individuals with gout. Uric acid stones can also occur due to genetic factors.
Cystine stones – Formed due to a hereditary disorder that results in the kidney producing excess amount of the amino acid – cystinuria.
However, kidney stones can also result in a variety of complications if not diagnosed by a urologist. So what are the key indicators that might lead an individual to believe they have a kidney stone?
Warning Signs You May Have a Kidney Stone
Kidney stones are able to crystallize somewhere in the urinary tract when urine becomes concentrated. Therefore, one of the most important preventative measures is to drink enough water each day — at least 64 ounces is the recommended daily value by most healthcare providers.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have a kidney stone present in your urinary tract:
- Severe pain in the back, side, or below the ribs
- Pain that travels to the lower abdomen or groin area
- Pain when urinating
- Pink, red, brown urine coloring
- Cloudy or bad-smelling urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Persistent feeling of needing to urinate
- Urinating often
- Urinating in small amounts
- Blood in the urine
If you have any combination of these symptoms, it may be tempting to self-diagnose yourself with a kidney stone and try and pass the mineral deposit without seeing a urologist. However, for your long-term safety, it is recommended to visit a physician in order to rule out other medical concerns.
Your urologist will be able to confirm your suspicion of a kidney stone via a variety of tests, including:
Blood testing: Can identify if too much calcium or uric acid is present in your blood.
Urine testing: Can show the levels of stone-forming minerals and stone-preventing minerals.
X-rays: Can help reveal kidney stones present in the urinary tract. However, smaller stones may be missed.
CT scans: A more in-depth version of x-ray scans, a CT scan can give clear and quick images from multiple angles.
Ultrasound: Soundwaves are used to create pictures, and provides an extensive look at all areas where kidney stones may be present.
Need to See a Urologist?
If you are experiencing kidney pain, or suspect you might be suffering from kidney stones, contact our office to be seen by a specialist.