Do I Have a Kidney Stone? How to Tell If It’s an Emergency.
At Urology Austin, education is a crucial part of our service to our patients. Making an appointment to diagnose certain conditions isn’t always advised; sometimes the emergency room is the best place to go.
What is a kidney stone?
Kidney stones are a type of crystal formed by substances in urine that can cause pain, infection and even kidney damage. When a kidney stone forms, it may travel from the kidney down the “ureter,” the tiny tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
The stones start small, but can grow large enough to fill the entire kidney. Kidney stones are very common among both men and women (children can get them, but it’s rare). They are especially common in southern states, like Texas with its warmer climate.
If you are in pain and suspect that the source is a kidney stone, please read this symptom checker to decide your next step.
Do I have a kidney stone?
Here is a list of the most common symptoms of kidney stones:
- Severe pain: Many describe this pain as the worst they have ever experienced.
- Pain in flank and back: Kidney stones can cause excruciating pain in the flank (your side between your ribs and hip) and/or your back the first time you have an episode. The pain can start in the upper back and then migrate to the abdomen and groin.
- Changing positions doesn’t help: Kidney stone pain is primarily due to blockage of the urinary track, meaning you can’t alleviate it by moving or changing position.
- Pain accompanied by other symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, hematuria (blood in the urine), as well as fever are all common when someone is having a kidney stone episode.
- Pain comes in waves: The stone periodically blocks the urinary track as it makes its way out, meaning the pain often moves down the body.
Should I go to the emergency room to treat my kidney stone emergency?
Do I have a kidney stone? You should seek immediate medical attention if you have:
- A fever above 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- Burning during urination, cloudy urine or bad smelling urine
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
- Intolerable pain
- Certain medical conditions that can make passing a stone potentially more dangerous, including having only one kidney, diabetes or decreased kidney function.
If this is happening to you, and you suspect you might have a kidney stone, you should go straight to the emergency room.
At the hospital, doctors can make the diagnosis and provide treatment for an active kidney stone. X-rays, usually a CT scan, confirm that a stone is present.
What kind of treatment is available for kidney stones?
Treatment options for kidney stones include allowing a stone to pass by itself, using medications to help pass a stone, and surgery to treat or remove a stone.
Treatment decisions are based on the size of the kidney stone and its location within the urinary system. In general, stones less than 5 millimeters in size have a 50% chance of passing out of the body with conservative therapy alone.
Kidney stones that are larger than 5 mm are often treated surgically.
If you don’t meet the criteria to go to the emergency room but still suspect you might have a kidney stone, please contact us to make an appointment. Our experienced urologists can help formulate a treatment plan that keeps you in optimal health.