Kidney stones occur when high levels of specific substances occur in the urine form a solid material in the kidney. When these substances are found in lower levels, they do not cause problems. Kidneys stones may travel through the urinary tract or stay within the kidneys. They can occur in varying sizes and smaller stones may be able to pass by themselves with very little pain. Larger stones, however, can get stock somewhere along your urinary tract, blocking the urine flow and causing bleeding or severe pain.
How Do You Know If You Have Kidney Stones?
1. Judged by Symptoms
Some people will not experience symptoms of kidney stones until the stone begins to move within the kidney or enter the ureter. When this occurs, symptoms will occur, but the pain associated with it can shift in location or intensity.
Some of the symptoms include fever and chills (in case of an infection); frequent urination; persistent need to urinate; nausea and vomiting; urine that is foul-smelling or cloudy; urine that is brown, pink or red; pain when urinating; pain that varies in intensity and comes in waves; pain that spreads down to the groin and lower abdomen and severe back and side pain (below the ribs).
2. Estimated by Its Types
Knowing what type of kidneys stone you have can help you take steps to reduce your risk.
- Calcium Stone. Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stones and usually are made of calcium oxalate (but can also be made of calcium phosphate). This naturally occurring substance can be found in foods including nuts, chocolate and certain fruits and vegetables. It is also produced by the liver. Certain things can lead to an increased concentration of oxalate or calcium in the urine and these include severe metabolic disorders, intestinal bypass surgery, high amounts of vitamin D and dietary factors.
- Uric Acid Stones. These stones are more common in people who lose a great deal of fluid or do not drink enough. People with genetic factors also have an increased risk as do those with gout or a high-protein diet.
- Struvite Stones. Struvite stones form because of urinary tract infections or other types of infections. They can become large and grow quickly, occasionally without warning or many symptoms.
- Cystine Stones. These stones are the result of the kidneys excreting too much cystinuria (an amino acid) due to a hereditary disorder.
3. Decided by Diagnosis and Tests
Diagnosis and tests are the most accurate way to know whether you have a kidney stone.
- Blood Tests. Blood tests are a great way to monitor kidney health and can show too much uric acid or calcium.
- Urine Tests. Urine tests can show problems with the materials you are excreting, either too little of those that prevent kidney stones or too much of those that form them.
- Imaging Tests. Imaging tests are another way to find kidney stones in the urinary tract. Some like abdominal x-rays may miss smaller kidney stones and some such as ST scans can show even tiny ones. Other options include intravenous pyelography and ultrasounds.
When to See a Doctor
If you have any signs of kidney stones that cause your concern, you should visit the doctor. You should also see them immediately if you have problems urinating; there is blood in your urine; you have pain that is accompanied by fever and chills or nausea and vomiting or your pain makes it impossible to get comfortable.