Kidney Stones

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Kidney Stones Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideKidney Stone Pictures Slideshow

Kidney Stone Pictures Slideshow

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 who go to the emergency room 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. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 11/4/2015
References
REFERENCES:

"Kidney Stones in Adults." National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Sept. 2, 2010. <http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/Kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults/>

Shekarriz, Bijan. "Hyperoxaluria." Medscape.com. Apr. 5, 2013. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/444683-overview>.

Wolf Jr., J. Stuart. "Nephrolithiasis." Medscape.com. September 26, 2015. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/437096-overview>

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