Kidney Stones (cont.)

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What are the signs and symptoms of kidney stones?

While some kidney stones may not produce symptoms (known as "silent" stones), people who have kidney stones often report the sudden onset of excruciating, cramping pain in their low back and/or side, groin, or abdomen. Changes in body position do not relieve this pain. The abdominal, groin, and/or back pain typically waxes and wanes in severity, characteristic of colicky pain (the pain is sometimes referred to as renal colic). It may be so severe that it is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The pain has been described by many as the worst pain of their lives, even worse than the pain of childbirth or broken bones. Kidney stones also characteristically cause bloody urine. If infection is present in the urinary tract along with the stones, there may be fever and chills. Sometimes, symptoms such as difficulty urinating, urinary urgency, penile pain, or testicular pain may occur due to kidney stones.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

The diagnosis of kidney stones is suspected when the typical pattern of symptoms is noted and when other possible causes of the abdominal or flank pain are excluded. Which is the ideal test to diagnose kidney stones is controversial. Imaging tests are usually done to confirm the diagnosis. Many patients present to the emergency room and will have a non-contrast CT scan done. This can be done rapidly and will help rule-out other causes for flank or abdominal pain. However, a CT scan exposes patients to significant radiation and recently, ultrasound in combination with plain abdominal X-rays have been shown to be effective in diagnosing kidney stones.

In pregnant women or those who should avoid radiation exposure, an ultrasound examination may be done to help establish the diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/17/2014

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