The symptoms associated with the presence of a kidney stone may not always be overt. In most cases it will remain unnoticed until it enters the ureter where the pain due to ureteral spasm, dilation and wall injury is severe. At other times, a small stone may pass out of the kidney with no symptoms. However, when the symptoms of a kidney stone is present, it can be excruciating to the point that daily functioning is affected.
Common Symptoms of Kidney Stones
- Kidney stone pain, known as renal colic, may present as severe pain in the flank, lower abdomen, back and/or groin.
- Blood in the urine.
- Dark, cloudy and/or foamy urine.
- Intense nausea with/without vomiting.
- Pain or burning when urinating.
- Frequent urination.
- Fever and chills if there is an infection.
Other symptoms may vary depending on the cause of the kidney stone and any other pre-existing conditions.
Not all the symptoms listed above may present at the same time. A large stone or multiple kidney stones may cause symptoms while it is within the kidney. However in most cases, patients only report to the emergency room once the kidney stone enters the ureter or causes an obstruction at the ureteropelvic junction (area where the ureter meets the kidney). Even the presence of blood in the urine usually goes unnoticed. Once the stone falls into the bladder, it once again may go unnoticed unless it is large and/or causes an obstruction.
The symptoms in both adults and children are almost the same. However, the presentation may differ depending on the individual, not only based on age and gender. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women and stones in children are rare. With kidney stone pain, the patient cannot lie still and is often pacing or writing in agony. It may extend from the lower part of the chest cavity, all the way to the upper part of the inner thigh.
If there is severely reduced urine output, inability to urinate (anuria) or significant abdominal swelling, it should be considered as a medical emergency and immediate treatment should be sought.
Symptoms in Men
- Pain extending to the groin – tip of penis, testicles.
- No swelling of the testicles present.
- Symptoms may be attributed to prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia in older men) or inflammation/infection (prostatitis), cystitis, UTI, hernia, appendicitis.
Symptoms in Women
- Pain extending to the vulva.
- Itching of the vulva and discharge if active infection is present.
- Symptoms may be mistaken for ectopic pregnancy (if pregnant), ovulation/menstrual pain, cystitis, UTI, hernia, vaginitis.
Symptoms in Children, Baby
The symptoms in male or female children will not differ significantly from the symptoms mentioned above. In infants, a kidney stone may be easily missed because it is rare and the patient is unable to describe the symptoms.
Parents/caregivers of infants should be alerted to the :
- Restless and capricious child – constantly crying.
- Changes in urine output or color.
- Frequency of urination when compared to regular output (number of diapers soiled by urine).
These symptoms accompanied by a lack of appetite, gagging or vomiting or change in bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea) should raise the question of the possibility of a kidney/urinary stone.