What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?

S. Mithra

Severe pain in the abdomen is the most telltale symptom of a kidney stone. These stones, called nephrolithiasis, are tiny pieces of minerals, such as calcium and salts, that collect in the kidneys and are too large to pass easily along the ureter to the bladder and out of the body. When they move from the kidney, stones cause severe waves of pain in the abdomen as well as other symptoms, such as problems urinating, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

A diagram of a human kidney.
A diagram of a human kidney.


The most common symptom of kidney stones is extreme pain anywhere in the abdomen that often comes in waves. It's an extremely severe pain often described as being comparable or even worse than childbirth. The pain usually means a stone is moving from the kidney through the ureter, the passage connecting the kidney to the bladder.

Kidney stones next to a ruler to show the size.
Kidney stones next to a ruler to show the size.

A kidney stone still in the kidney might not cause any pain or may cause pain on one side, near the lower back. If it has moved into the ureter, the pain might originate in the lower abdomen, side, or groin. Strong, continuous pain might indicate that the kidney stone is stuck and will not pass without medical treatment.

A kidney with a kidney stone.
A kidney with a kidney stone.

Problems Urinating

If a stone is in the ureter, the person may have difficulty urinating as the stone blocks urine from moving easily into the bladder. Stones can be smooth or have jagged edges, which can catch and tear at the walls of the ureter. This can cause the tissue to bleed, causing a burning feeling and urine that is tinted pink or red. As the stone moves toward the bladder, it can make the person feel like he or she needs to urinate more frequently.

Pain in the lower back is an early sign of kidney stones.
Pain in the lower back is an early sign of kidney stones.

Nausea and Vomiting

The severe pain that is one of the main symptoms of kidney stones can also cause nausea and vomiting in patients. This may, in part, be referred pain — pain that is felt in an area other than where it is being caused. In addition, there are nerves in the kidneys that connect to the stomach; when pressure in the kidneys is high, as it is when they cannot drain properly, these nerves signal the stomach to work more slowly, which can cause nausea. A patient might also lose his appetite or experience diarrhea or constipation.

Stones that move from the kidney can cause nausea.
Stones that move from the kidney can cause nausea.

Fever and Chills

Other symptoms of kidney stones include clammy, cold, hot, or sweaty skin accompanied by a fever or chills. A fever usually means that the stone has caused a blockage, and the kidneys cannot function normally. A blocked kidney can become infected, causing a potentially life threatening condition called sepsis. In some cases, kidney stones can also be caused by bladder infections, in which case a fever may be caused by that original illness.

An ultrasound can confirm the presence of kidney stones.
An ultrasound can confirm the presence of kidney stones.

Kidney Stones Without Symptoms

In some cases, people have kidney stones that do not cause any noticeable symptoms. If the stones are very small or stay in the kidney, they may not cause any problems or require any treatment. Often, such stones are only found when the patient is undergoing tests for an unrelated condition.

People with kidney stones who experience fever or vomiting should consult a medical professional.
People with kidney stones who experience fever or vomiting should consult a medical professional.


Anyone with severe pain or other symptoms of kidney stones should call a medical professional for an exam. Some symptoms are similar to a urinary tract infection or bladder inflammation, called cystitis, so it is important for a medical professional to rule out other causes. Kidney stones can be diagnosed with a blood or urine test, an ultrasound, or an X-ray with or without dye.

Vomiting may be a sign of a kidney stone.
Vomiting may be a sign of a kidney stone.


Most symptoms of kidney stones can be treated at home by the patient drinking lots of water and other fluids to flush out the stones and using over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help lessen the pain. About 10 to 20 percent of kidney stones are too big pass at home, though, and need further treatment. Shock waves can be used to break the stone into small enough pieces to pass naturally, or a stent may be inserted in the ureter to keep it open enough for the stone to pass. Minor surgery under general anesthetic may be needed to remove or break up the stone. If the stone was caused by or has caused an infection, that must be treated with antibiotics first, before the stone is removed.

A urinalysis may be conducted to detect kidney stones.
A urinalysis may be conducted to detect kidney stones.
As a kidney stone moves through the kidney towards the bladder, the stone can literally dig itself into the soft tissue of the kidney's tube.
As a kidney stone moves through the kidney towards the bladder, the stone can literally dig itself into the soft tissue of the kidney's tube.

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Discussion Comments


I'm 13 and I believe I recently passed a kidney stone but I'm healthy and very athletic. I have been in every team my school has had for girls. But I don't know for sure.


I am disappointed that no mention of MSK (Medullary Sponge Kidney) was made. This kidney disease is a huge cause of recurring stones and infections of the kidney yet there's so little information about it; even most doctors are clueless.

My last trip to the ER with a severe infection and extreme pain was a nightmare. The doctor actually looked up Medullary Sponge Kidney on his phone right in front of me because he had never heard of it. And of course, that means I received improper treatment. It's sad that I could look at the levels on my labs and know the proper procedure would be admittance, a 12 hour fast, and pain meds with an evaluation by a urologist, and the man who went to medical school sent me home with nothing but a script for antibiotics and advised me to go to church and ask Jesus to heal me.

I'm not even kidding you. That was his idea of treatment and now I have a bill for 2 grand for that? Please add an article about MSK. Those of us who have it have been ignored for far too long.


A great way to help relieve pain from the kidney is to use Juniper Berry essential oil. It is great for helping prevent/resolve kidney stones and helps your body heal naturally. I use doTERRA, but you can use any quality essential oil.


I've just had a kidney stone for the first time. I'm 19 and the odd thing was I didn't drink a lot of iced tea or anything that would really cause them. But I never passed it because the pain stopped. Now I think the pain is back but what's worse is I think I'm constipated too, which majorly stinks. Is this a common thing to be when you have kidney stones? --


I was stuck in the hospital overnight. They told me I had three stones and had to get a stent put in and drained out the stones. They also found one in the left kidney but left it there instead of taking it out.

A week later, I had to go in to have the stent removed. Hope I don't have that problem again.


What is the best way for a kidney stone stent removal with a string?


I've been diabetic for the last 12 years and 12 months ago I was diagnosed with a kidney stone. I had an x ray and sonography done which clearly showed 2mm stone.

Last year, I started with SB Group medicine for diabetes and I told them about my kidney stone. SB Group didn't give me any guarantees of clearing the kidney stone as it was not their subject. They didn't give me a guarantee of reducing my sugar level either, but as I have seen positive results from their medicine, I started with their herbal medicine.

Today my kidney is cleared without any medication and my amaryl 2mg tablet for diabetes has been reduced to 1 mg. Herbal medicine with coconut water has helped to dissolve the kidney stone. Thanks to these supportive people to keep me positive after starting treatment.


My husband has had kidney stones three different times. The last one was in January of 2011. He suddenly got very sharp pains on his right side. We barely got to the ER when he vomited profusely.

They examined him and after he got an xray they said the stone was small enough to pass. He followed up a couple weeks later with a urologist when he still had not passed it. He said if my husband did not pass it in about a week he would have to go up there and take it out. My husband in the meantime was on oxycodone for the pain.

Finally he passed he stone 23 days after the initial pain started. I still remember the sound of the stone as it hit the container so that he could take it to the doctor and have a lab analyze it. It sounded like a coin dropping, it was jagged and dark in color. They analyzed the stone, and gave him a list of foods to avoid: spinach, tea, chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, etc. All things he loves. No more stones so far.

If you get stones, flood yourself with water. After he drank a lot of Old Orchard Apple Mango juice he passed it. It is supposed to help.


The best way to prevent kidney stones is to not eat foods high in oxalates (like spinach) and drink lots of water.


I am prone to kidney stones myself. I can usually count on a bad kidney stone attack about once every three to four years. One thing I've learned is that water is your best friend, but sugary soft drinks are not. The pain of a kidney stone attack usually starts out as a non-specific kind of dull pain on one side of my lower back or abdomen. I might be able to continue my day at that point, but within a few hours the pain is much sharper and almost constant. I can still urinate, but it's a painful and incomplete experience. Once the main attack starts, it feels like someone is stabbing me with an ice pick from the inside of my lower back and abdomen.

I'd say that if you're experiencing pain in your lower back or abdomen that comes and goes, and you're still able to go through your regular day, it's not a kidney stone. It could be something like a urinary tract or kidney infection, but if you're having a full-blown kidney stone attack, you'll know it.


I have been having what i think is kidney pain for almost a month, off and on. It's getting more frequent, but the pain isn't bad. I had a urine test that I'm waiting for- the results should be in tomorrow.

Should I expect the pain to intensify? Should I tell colleagues to be prepared for me to take time off of work? I'm scared of the attack coming on at any second. I don't see what else this could possibly be. After I get the ultrasound back tomorrow I will go to the doctor. Any advice is greatly appreciated. It's 2 a.m. and I'm just sitting here scared, waiting for the attack to come. This stinks!


Anon1943: I have a kidney stone that is 2cm. Yes they can get that big. I am in the same situation as Anon79943. Try vodka. That helps sometimes- but not if you have a GI problem as well.


I know that kidney stone is a big trouble and recently I too, had this experience of unbearable pain. Though I have not gone the homeopathy route, as of now but will soon.

My two relatives had a complete success with homeopathy. They told me that there is a special medicine in homeopathy which helps pass out the stone with urine.

One of them was told that stone is big and needs to be operated on, however, he planned to go with homeopathy and bingo! He got rid of that one and never had any stones after that. I also asked a few friends if they have heard about homeopathy treatment for this, and got a really positive responses, so guys you might as well give it a try.


I've had problems with my kidneys since '04. I get kidney infections quite regularly. Depending on the severity, I may or may need require antibiotics. At this point I'm almost used to it.

Then there are my stones. They've been relatively small thus far, though they still cause pain. But usually, once it starts to pass, I'm in agonizing pain for no more than a couple of days. Then the stone is gone and I'm fine until the next one starts to pass. It stinks, but I deal with it.

This time is different. At the beginning of this year I started to have some moderate abdominal pain. I figured it was due to the G.I. issues I've had since I can remember. Then noticed a high concentration of blood in my urine. This was a red flag. Since I was laid off from my job, and had to move to another state to stay with family, I am uninsured. So I took at trip to the ER, knowing they cannot turn me away.

They did the usual tests: urinalysis, blood work, CT. Not surprisingly, they found a stone in my ureter that was the root of the pain and blood. They said it was small enough to pass on its own, gave me a small scrip to ease the pain and told me to follow up with my urologist.

Being that I'm unemployed and uninsured, I cannot afford a visit to the urologist. So I figured I'd just drink as much water as I can without giving myself water intoxication, and that would help it pass on it's own. Two months passed. The pain only got worse and there was still a lot of blood in my urine daily.

I ended up back in the ER in more pain than I have ever experienced in my entire life. Enough pain for them to give my multiple morphine injections in my IV. They did all the same tests and said the stone had not moved at all, but shifted slightly. How it can shift, but not move at all in two months is beyond my comprehension.

Once again they told me to drink water and make an appointment to see my urologist (which, again, I cannot afford). That was two months ago.

So now it's been nearly four months of excruciating pain every single day. I don't want to go back to the ER because I'm afraid they're going to think I'm going just for the drugs (there is a huge prescription drug problem in my area, apparently). And I don't want to incur any more debt with the hospital without any way to pay them back. So what do I do?

My urologist will not accept payments, and I cannot find anyone else in the area who will. Plus, I like my urologist. He's great. If it were up to him, he would take payments, but he's part of some medical group that doesn't allow it.

I really don't know how much longer I can stand the pain. I can't take NSAIDs like Motrin because of my chronic kidney infections. Tylenol doesn't help on it's own, and I don't have any more of the narcotic pain killers I was prescribed.

Even so, I don't want to end up becoming dependent on the narcotics just because I can't afford specialized medical care. And that's all the ER will do for me; throw pills at the problem. "You have severe pain and kidney problems? Then take these pills that destroy your liver instead!"

I've tried all the home remedies on the internet to no avail! I just want this thing out!

I don't know what to do!


My mother has had over a dozen treatments for kidney stones since the 80's. She has been through everything available. She is now 61 and had to take another trip to the ER and was told her kidney was full of large stones. They kept her for three days, feeding her fluids and antibiotics, then sent her home saying that they were not able to treat her there and she would be better off going to a university-type hospital and they would set her up an appointment.

They did, however, put a stent in. The Urologist talked as though it was an urgent situation and that she would be going to the other hospital in just a few days and that they would probably remove that kidney.

After a week home in pain and unable to do anything, they set her up an appointment two months away. It that normal? Is it safe for her to wait that long? Why should she have to be in pain for two months?

If anyone has any info please help. I thought I might just take her to a different university hospital ER. If the doctor thought that it was urgent that she get treatment in a few days what is up with the two-month wait? Something doesn't seem right and it has me really worried. Help!


I have been battling kidney stones on and off since 2005. At my last trip to a urologist(about a year ago). I was told that I had a kidney full of stones.

I do believe I have a stuck stone that is in my lower bladder. It has been there over three weeks. The pain comes and goes. If left untreated, will it cause infection and a damaged kidney?

My mother has stones and her right kidney is non functional at this point. Any answers would be appreciated. Thank you!


Yeah kidney stones are painful. There are specific types of stones. The most common are calcium stones. However, cystine kidney stones can appear through a hereditary defect with the amino acids. This type of stone is sharper than the most common kidney stone. So any size can result in severe pain.

The cystine kidney stones are the type that I have. I had my first kidney stone pain when I was 15 years old. The best way to regulate cystine kidney stones is to drink organic lemonade and keep your urine ph a seven or above. The cystine kidney stones are at a higher risk for forming when the body is acidic. Some cases can turn fatal if you keep ignoring what your body is telling you.

If the pain proceeds, you should go see a doctor just to be safe.


Look up nano bacteria. These may cause both hardening of arteries and kidney stones. Inflammation plays a role as well. They used to think ingesting calcium was bad, and then they thought it was good and now they just don't know.

I've had some improvement by supplementing with magnesium citrate, but I form stones pretty easily.


I get small pains in my lower abdomen but i don't drink sodas. i drink water and cranberry juice a lot, which prevents it, and I'm always thinking I'm going to have one because I'm 14 and my friend said he had one when he was 13 and my dad has one too.


anon38984, I think you have your units mixed up. Kidney stones are generally under 5 millimeters in order to pass. Anything larger than that has a good chance of getting stuck. A 2cm stone (=20 millimeters) is huge and would most certainly require intervention to prevent blockage.


I have chronic kidney stones and have had for years. I've had at least 6 of them stuck, and have to be removed. Stuck kidney stones *always* cause pain. Also 2 cm is usually pretty small for a kidney stone.. they are normally 5 cm or bigger when they get stuck.


i read Gerrahdoh's comments...i am a teenager and have almost the exact same symptoms...ive had 3 kidney stones in the past two years and over the past two years i have lost complete interest in cheese and milk and recently have developed bad gastric problems...is it possible my stones and gastric problems could be because i am lactose intolerant?


do kidney stones that are stuck in the ureter always cause pain or discomfort?


After doing a bit of research, it appears that kidney stones can grow quite large. I found a few sites that mention them growing upwards of a few inches in diameter. Given that, I'd say 2cm is quite possible...


can a kidney stone get to be 2cm. ?


When I was a child, I had many gastric problems. As a teenager, I had two kidney stone blockages which made me pass out and waking up in hospital for surgery.Now in my fifties, I have coronary arterial plaquing indicating a different kind of blockage. After researching, consulting and rational deduction,I believe I have been lactose intolerant all my life as one of my sons also is. I have never enjoyed milk, and decided that calcium from dairy and my metabolism do not co-operate properly.I tried chocolate soy drink as an alternative but found after a couple of years, that extra calcium was added to the product> From that point onward, I read all the packaging.I am positive that calcium, bad fats and white blood cells combine incorrectly to create plaquing.There is a way to reverse this, finding the starting regimes is individual.Any ideas?

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