What to do if you think you have a kidney stone

Dr Tindni advising patient

Maybe it began with a dull ache in your lower abdomen. Or severe pain below your ribs that comes and goes in waves. Regardless, thinking you might have a kidney stone is stressful! But, there a few things you can do to take stock of your symptoms and determine what proactive steps to take to minimize discomfort.

What is a kidney stone?

A kidney stone is a buildup of minerals that forms in the kidneys or urinary tract. Commonly consisting of calcium, oxalate, cysteine, or phosphate, kidney stones vary in size from nearly undetectable to as large as a golf ball.

 Do I have a kidney stone?

A kidney stone usually goes unnoticed until it moves into the ureter, the tube connecting your kidney and bladder. When this occurs, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Intense pain in your side
  • Pain that fluctuates in severity
  • Blood in your urine
  • A burning sensation when you urinate
  • Cloudy or smelly urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Vomiting and/or nausea

It’s likely that your symptoms may change as the kidney stone moves through your urinary tract.

Should I see a doctor?

You should always consult with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that concern you.

Depending on your symptoms and situation, you may need to take no further action than drinking lots of water and waiting for the stone to pass.

If your pain is so severe that you can’t find a comfortable position, there’s blood in your urine, you can’t pass urine, and have a fever or chills, seek immediate medical attention.

What to expect during the exam

When you visit your doctor about an expected kidney stone, you may have a few tests to confirm. This could include a blood test for excess calcium or uric acid, a urine test, and abdominal x-rays. They’ll likely ask you when your symptoms began, how severe they are, and when they occur.

If the stone is small, your doctor may give you medication to encourage the passing of the stone and instruct you to drink several quarts of water a day.

Larger kidney stones may require more extensive treatment. Your doctor may recommend using shock waves to break up the stone into smaller pieces. This procedure can be uncomfortable, so you may be sedated to decrease discomfort. Alternately, you may undergo surgery to remove the stone.


If you think you may have a kidney stone, contact the Nephrology Associates of Cincinnati to schedule an appointment.


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