Kidney stones are small, hard deposits of minerals and salts that form in your kidneys. And while in some cases, you might not notice if you have small kidney stones, in others, they can be extremely painful and can potentially lead to kidney infections and damage if left untreated.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney stones send more than half a million people to the emergency room in the United States each year [1]. And although they tend to occur more commonly in men; with estimates suggesting 1 in every 8 American men will develop kidney stones in their lifetime, they can affect just about anyone. If you think you may have kidney stones, it’s important not to be worried - the majority of kidney stones can be managed and treated; which is why it’s so important to know these common signs, symptoms and risk factors.

Related article: What is Normal Kidney Function and Should you get it Checked?



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What are the symptoms of kidney stones?


A kidney stone typically won’t cause any noticeable symptoms until it starts to move around in your kidneys or make its way into your ureters, according to Mayo Clinic [2]. If the stone becomes wedged in the ureter, it can cause some quite uncomfortable symptoms, these include:

  • Sharp pain in the side and back
  • Pain in the side of your stomach/lower abdomen
  • Burning sensation when urinating

Other common symptoms include a persistent need to urinate, cloudy urine, blood in your urine, and nausea and vomiting.

If you have ever experienced a urinary tract infection, you might notice that kidney stone symptoms are pretty similar, however - treatment for both differs which is why it’s so important to reach out to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms or if you simply feel like something isn’t right.


What is kidney stone pain like?


As stated by the National Kidney Foundation, the general rule of thumb is: the larger the stone, the more noticeable the symptoms may be [3]. If you do experience pain, it will feel like a sharp, cramping pain in your back or your side. This pain can shift down towards your lower abdomen and your hips or thighs. This pain can be quite severe and can come and go in waves.

If you are experiencing severe and uncomfortable pain, have a friend or family member take you to a doctor.

Related article: Can Medication Damage Your Kidneys?


What is the best thing to drink if you have kidney stones?


If you have small kidney stones, it’s likely that you will be able to pass the stone without invasive treatment, and drinking plenty of fluids is key to this process!

Mayo Clinic recommends that you drink as much as 1.8-3.6 liters of water per day; enough that your producing clear or nearly clear urine [4]. Of course, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you suspect you have kidney stones to ensure that home treatment is the right option for you.


What are the risk factors of kidney stones?


While kidney stones tend to affect men more often than women, they can affect anyone. In saying that, there are certain factors that can potentially increase your chances of kidney stones these include not drinking enough fluids or taking certain medications.

The risk of kidney stones can also increase because of the following:

  • Family or personal history
  • Following a certain diet such as high-protein, salt, and sugar
  • Obesity
  • Digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease

Related article: Can too Much Protein Damage Your Kidneys?


How do I know if I have kidney stones?


The most reliable way to know if you have kidney stones is by visiting your doctor who may run a couple of diagnostic tests such as a blood test, urine test, or an imaging test to show any kidney stones.

There are a number of different types of kidney stones; calcium stones (the most common), struvite stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones. Treatment will vary depending on the type of stone and the underlying cause.


If you would like to keep an eye on your kidney health, one of the best ways to do so is through regularly checking in; whether that be with your local doctor or with an at-home lab test with LetsGetChecked.

LetsGetChecked’s at-home Kidney Function Test monitors kidney function and performance by measuring levels of urea, creatinine, and eGFR. Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated clinical team will be available throughout the process to answer any questions you may have.

You should consider taking the test if:

  • You have a high protein diet
  • You have used or are using performance-enhancing drugs
  • You are taking anti-inflammatory medication
  • You suffer from high blood pressure
  • You suffer from diabetes
  • You have suffered an acute injury
  • You have persistent urinary tract infections
  • You have kidney disease or a family history of one
  • You have kidney stones or a family history of them

Related article: How do you Check Your Kidney Function From Home?



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References


  1. National Kidney Foundation. Kidney Stones. Online: Kidney.org
  2. Mayo Clinic. Kidney Stones. Online: Mayoclinic.org
  3. National Kidney Foundation. Kidney Stones. Online: Kidney.org
  4. Mayo Clinic. Kidney Stones. Online: Mayoclinic.org