How to know if you have kidney stones

When substances in the urine—such as calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus—become highly concentrated, kidney stones can form. People who do not drink enough fluids may also be at higher risk, as their urine is more concentrated. Kidney stones often do not have one specific cause, although some factors may increase your risk.

Types of Kidney Stones

Identifying the type of kidney stone can help determine the cause and treatment protocol, as well as how to best reduce your risk of getting future kidney stones.

  • Calcium-based stones. The most commonly found kidney stones are calcium stones, usually in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a naturally occurring substance found in some foods. In particular, some fruits, vegetables, nuts and chocolate have high oxalate content. A modification of your diet can help reduce the risk of acquiring calcium-based stones.
  • Struvite stones. This type of stone is composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate and occur most often from certain types of bacteria caused by urinary tract infections. These bacteria increase the pH in urine, making it less acidic. Eating foods such as meat, dairy and grains can help increase the amount of acids produced in your body.
  • Uric acid stones. Uric acid stones occur when the urine has a high acid content and and low pH, and can be caused by not drinking enough fluids, eating a high protein diet or from disorders such as gout.
  • Cystine stones. This type of kidney stone results when the body abnormally processes amino acids.

Who Gets Kidney Stones? What are the Risk Factors?

Kidney stones are common. According to the most recent data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 11 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the United States have kidney stones at least once during their lifetime. Men are affected more often than women, and overweight and obese people are more likely to get a kidney stone than people of normal weight.

Risk factors include:

  • Gender – men are more likely than women to develop a kidney stone
  • Age – older people are more affected
  • Race – Caucasians are at higher risk
  • Family History
  • Certain medications – including, indinavir (to treat HIV), acyclovir (anti-viral), diuretics (to rid your body of water), sulfadiazine (antibiotic)
  • Associated conditions – including, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, gout, hyperparathyroidism
  • Anatomic conditions – urinary obstruction, UPJ obstruction, urinary stasis

Once you have a kidney stone, you are also more likely to develop a future kidney stones.

The UCLA study “Prevalence of kidney stones in the United States” published in European Urology (PDF) reported on the risk factors that make a person especially likely to develop a kidney stone.

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?

Kidney Stone Symptoms
People with kidney stones may not experience symptoms until the stone moves in your kidney or into your ureter (the tube connecting your kidney and bladder), at which point you may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Flank Pain (discomfort in your upper abdomen or back and sides)
  • Hematuria (blood in your urine)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Urgency to urinate
  • Urinating more frequently than usual
  • Pain when urinating
  • Fever

Many people who have small stones will have them pass through the body on their own, while large stones tend to get stuck in the urinary tract. Pain is often unrelated to stone size. The smallest stones can cause the most discomfort, while large stones may sit quietly in the kidney causing only a dull ache.

How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?

Kidney Stone Diagnosis
Diagnosing a kidney stone requires a physical exam and a medical history to be taken by a physician. Typically a urinalysis (testing of a urine sample), an abdominal x-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or an ultrasound will be done to complete the diagnosis. According to the American Urological Association, the current gold standard for confirming kidney stones is a non-contrast CT of the abdomen and pelvis. Once a stone is detected, size and location are established and are key determinants in the best management and treatment options.

For an appointment with a kidney stone specialist, please call 310-794-7700.

Kidney stones are an unfortunate reality for more than 2 million Americans, but many of us still don’t know how to go about normal routines while passing one. When it comes to exercising with stones, there are right and wrong ways to go about your workout. These are the four basic principles to keep in mind to maintain optimal health:

  • Listen to your body. In general, there’s no reason for a kidney stone to stop you from living your normal life. If your pain is being properly managed, feel free to continue to work out as you normally would. It’s important, however, that you pay attention to your body and stop activity as soon as you feel a strange sensation or pain in the abdomen or lower back. If you aren’t feeling well, but would still like to stay active, try a light walk or yoga session to give your body a break.
  • Drink lots of water, then drink some more. When you have a kidney stone, staying hydrated is critically important. Exercise caution by drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout. You can also mix up your beverage options with cranberry juices and lemonade to help break down certain types of kidney stones.
  • Ask your urologist first if you are on any medications. Certain pain medications can cause unexpected reactions in patients who have never taken them before, or who are taking exceptionally high doses. If your urologist has prescribed any medications to you, you should ask them about potential side effects before exercising in order to minimize your risk.
  • Exercise might actually promote stone passing. Unfortunately, kidney stones can have a mind of their own when it comes to passing through the urinary system. In the worst cases, stones can get lodged and refuse to pass easily on their own and therefore must be retrieved. The good news is, cautious exercise can actually be helpful in moving stones along naturally. If you feel up to it, a light jog or other cardio workout could be enough to shorten your kidney stone’s unwelcome stay.

While light cardio is generally a safe option, you may need to get your urologist’s approval if this is your first time living with a stone. Just like consulting your doctor before beginning a new exercise program is a good idea, it is also a good idea to consult your urologist when working out with a new kidney stone to make sure your particular case is safe. If you’d like to set up a consultation, or if you think you may have a kidney stone, call us today at 1-877-321-8452.

You’ve probably heard of kidney stones and how they sometimes can hurt. But pain in your abdomen and problems peeing could be signs of several different medical problems.

How can you know for sure it’s a kidney stone that ails you?

Know Your Symptoms

Because kidney stones can affect just about anyone, it’s important to know the signs of this common condition. They might include:

  • Pain in your back or side
  • Pain that moves into your lower belly
  • Lots of urinating
  • Pain while you pee that is cloudy or is pink, red, or brown with stomach pain

You may have one or several of these symptoms. It depends on the size and location of the kidney stone.


The only way to know for sure that you have a kidney stone is to see a doctor so they can make a diagnosis. You should make an appointment if you:

  • Can’t get comfortable standing, sitting, or lying down
  • Have nausea and serious pain in your belly
  • Notice blood in your urine
  • Have a hard time trying to pee

Be ready to describe your symptoms, including when they started. You might want to write them down, along with a list of the medications and vitamins and supplements you take.

You should also try to keep track of how much you drink and pee in a 24-hour period. If your doctor thinks you might have kidney stones, they may order one or more tests.

Tests for Kidney Stones

There are several ways your doctor can test for kidney stones. They include:

Imaging tests: Doctors have various ways of taking a peek inside your body to see what’s going on. They might try:

  • X-rays. They can find some stones, but little ones might not show up.
  • CT scans. A more in-depth type of scan is called computed tomography, or CT scan. A CT scan is a special kind of X-ray. The equipment takes pictures from several angles. A computer then puts all the X-rays, called “slices,” together into more detailed images than standard X-rays can give you. A CT scan is often used in emergencies, because it gives such clear and quick images to help doctors make a fast diagnosis.
  • Ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create pictures of your insides.

If you have a kidney stone, these tests can help tell your doctor how big it is and exactly where it’s located.

You don’t need to do anything to prepare for an imaging test. You may be told to drink more fluids to help pass the stone.

Blood tests: These can help find out whether you have too much of certain substances in your blood, such as uric acid or calcium, that can cause stones to form.

Urine tests: These can detect stone-forming minerals in your pee or find out if you lack substances that help stop them from forming. You might collect a urine sample over the course of a day or two.

After Your Diagnosis

All this information is important as your doctor decides what’s the best treatment.

If the pain isn’t bad, your doctor may take a wait-and-see approach, hoping that you can pass the stone on your own. A medication called tamsulosin (Flomax) relaxes the ureter to help pass the stone.

You might need sound wave therapy or surgery for stones too large to pass or those causing damage.

Your doctor may want to study the stone once it is out of your body — whether that’s through surgery or because you passed it while peeing. Knowing what’s in the stone may help your doctor prevent you from getting another one.


National Kidney Foundation: “Kidney Stones.”

Mayo Clinic: “Kidney stones: Symptoms,” “Preparing for Your Appointment,” “Tests and Diagnosis.”

Urology Care Foundation: “How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?” “How are Kidney Stones Treated?”

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives. While you can’t always avoid a kidney stone episode, you can be aware of certain risks. Ivanhoe tells us what you need to know about these pesky stones.

They’ve been described as more painful than childbirth! We’re talking about kidney stones.

“I felt like a little girl screaming. That’s how hard it hurt me,” explained Jack Osmanski.

Did you know certain risk factors can boost your chances of developing a dreaded stone? The first: dehydration.

“So, if we don’t drink enough water to dilute that calcium and other deposits that can form in the kidney, that can lead to kidney stones,” stated urologist Ross Simon, MD, MS.

Experts from the University of Southern California say drinking two liters of fluid a day reduced the chances of having a kidney stone recurrence by half. Family history is another risk factor. And if you’ve had a kidney stone in the past, you have a 50 percent risk of developing another one in the next five years! What you eat can also raise your risk!

“Eating too much sodium can actually cause increased secretion of calcium in the urine and that can lead to stone formation,” continued Dr. Simon.

You should also avoid eating a lot of animal proteins like beef, chicken, fish, and pork, as well as nuts, chocolate, spinach, and tea which are known culprits. Certain medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, urinary tract infections, and gout can raise your risk of developing a stone. And hot weather is another contributor. People living in warmer climates are more likely to have a kidney stone. Be sure to drink plenty of water if you’re outdoors or sweating a lot.

Most kidney stones have a yellowish appearance, but they can come in almost any color. The surface of stones can be either smooth or jagged.

I looked through some of these posts and I see that a lot of people have kidney stone issues and have been, or are going through many of the situatios that I have. I have become a sefl-taught expert on kidney stones since I have passed over 200 in my lifetime. I have a congenital kidney disease called Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease and it causes me to make stones like most people grow fingernails.

When you pass that many stones, you get to know your body and tricks to make things less painful so I thought I’d come and tell of some experiences that might help others. In addition to passing more than 200, I’ve also been through 7 Lythotrypsies so I know all that as well.

I passed my first stone when I was 20. Typical severe pain in my left flank area, like a knife pushed deep and twisting. That lasted several hours and landed me in the E.R. It took me 3 weeks to pass that stone but I finally did. The pain is typically the most instense pain a man will ever go through. The way I know it’s a stone is that no amount of re-positioning makes that pain better. It stays the same incredible intensity throughout the experience. For those who are not familiar with stones, the pain is caused when the stone is pushed down the ureters on the way to the bladded. Generally, you will pass a lot of blood the first few times this happens. Not usually bright red blood but very dark rust colored. I actually passed blood the day before the pain. Didn’t know, at that time, what was going on but learned quick.

Over the years, I have so much scar tissue built up inside my ureters that I no longer pass any visible blood and seldom feel the stone passing down the ureters. I have even passed 8mm stones and never knew which side it came down because it didn’t hurt. But that was after the first 50 or so.

I also know WHERE in the ureter the stone is by the type and location of pain. I know a stone is right near the opening to the bladder because I get this very regular spasm, about every second or so, but the pain is felt in the tip of the penis, as if the stone is actually stuck about 1/2 inch inside the urethra. But higher up the ureter the stone is, the deeper I feel the pain in my penis, ie: If the stone is 1" from the bladder, that spasming is about 1 & 1/2 inches from the tip of my penis. This is when I know I have to push a ton of water.

I generally know when the stone passes into the bladder as I get one more very intense sharp spasm. the kind that make you scream "OUCH"! Then I get ready for the next step. passing it through my penis. This is less painful than it sounds but always shocks the sh!t out of me, excuse my french. It almost always goes like this. I start peeing, and right near the end I feel the stone hit the exit of the bladder. I generally don’t get the stone out then. Often it literally gets stuck in my urethra which is really painful and is noted by a sharp pain in that area when bending forward. Then I do this trick. I drink lots of water, wait until my bladder is really full and hit the bathroom. I then hold the very tip of my penis tightly so that no pee can come out. I release the stream, causing my urethra to expand (like in the cartoons when someone plugs a fire hose and a big bubble grows near the end), then I release my grip. This cause a huge, fast stream and generally pushes the trapped stone out. Often, I have to keep squeezing off the penis, over and over again while trying to keep urinating, eventually, I pass the stone. In cases where the stone is particularily large or difficult, I will fill the tub with very warm water, get in and get down on all fours, reaching back to perform the same squeezing technique. This allows you to pee underwater and point the penis straight down, an aid to getting it out of the lowest point in the bladder. Yes, I end up sitting in a bathtub full of water (and my own pee) but it works. I find a huge stone in the bottom of the tub. Then I simply shower.

Because I form stones so fast, they are generally very jagged, like quartz crystals with spikes on the ends. Stones that spend years froming are generally more round and easier to pass. But often, my stones don’t show up on xray because they from so fast, they are not dense and therefore, not radio-opaque. This oftens causes me issues as new doctors think I’m faking a stone.

Another trick I use is when I have a stone stuck in my ureter for weeks or months. I go to the E.R. and have them hook me up to a normal sailine I.V. and push it wide open. This moves so much fluid through my kidneys that the stone often moves to the bladder with 2 hours. But this is not recommended for men over 50 as having that much fluid in your boday can cause a heart attack. Basically, you are simulating Congestive Heart Failure by having so much fluid going through your bloodstream. I haven’t done the IV thing since I turned 50.

As to what causes my stones, they are almost always calcium-oxylate, the typical type. Drinking colas is the number one way people get these stones. But eating nuts is also not a good idea. Many people say coffee is bad (tea is very high in oxylates) but I actually drink only coffee for the past 5 years and have greatly reduced my stone issues. I do drink lots of coffee and some water too so I think the hydration alone is what’s working. I spent 2 years drinking 2 bears a day. never created a stone in 2 years. But I couldn’t keep my beer gut from forming. Beer is a great diuretic.

I also try to take a Flomax when I know I’m about to pass a stone. Makes it easier to release the prostate and get flow going.

These are just some of the things I’ve learned over the years. I hope they help someone. I came here today because I feel like I passed a stone into my bladder but have not been able to flush it out. And at least half the times I go to pee, there is nothing, no pain, no stone trying to exit the bladder near the end. This is very unusual for me. And it happened the same last month. felt I passed a stone but never did. So either I have one stuck in the bladder (which BTW happens often. the bladder is not smooth on the inside, it has lots of folds and crevices that like to hold onto stones) or I am experiencing prostate stones for the first time. I came here looking for symptoms of those as they are new to me.

How do health care professionals diagnose kidney stones?

Health care professionals use your medical history, a physical exam, and lab and imaging tests to diagnose kidney stones.

A health care professional will ask if you have a history of health conditions that make you more likely to develop kidney stones. The health care professional also may ask if you have a family history of kidney stones and about what you typically eat. During a physical exam, the health care professional usually examines your body. The health care professional will ask you about your symptoms.

How to know if you have kidney stonesA health care professional will ask if you have a history of health conditions that make you more likely to develop kidney stones.

What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose kidney stones?

Health care professionals may use lab or imaging tests to diagnose kidney stones.

Lab tests

Urine tests can show whether your urine contains high levels of minerals that form kidney stones. Urine and blood tests can also help a health care professional find out what type of kidney stones you have.

Urinalysis. Urinalysis involves a health care professional testing your urine sample. You will collect a urine sample at a doctor’s office or at a lab, and a health care professional will test the sample. Urinalysis can show whether your urine has blood in it and minerals that can form kidney stones. White blood cells and bacteria in the urine mean you may have a urinary tract infection.

Blood tests. A health care professional may take a blood sample from you and send the sample to a lab to test. The blood test can show if you have high levels of certain minerals in your blood that can lead to kidney stones.

Imaging tests

Health care professionals use imaging tests to find kidney stones. The tests may also show problems that caused a kidney stone to form, such as a blockage in the urinary tract or a birth defect. You do not need anesthesia for these imaging tests.

Abdominal x-ray. An abdominal x-ray is a picture of the abdomen that uses low levels of radiation and is recorded on film or on a computer. An x-ray technician takes an abdominal x-ray at a hospital or outpatient center, and a radiologist reads the images. During an abdominal x-ray, you will lie on a table or stand up. The x-ray technician will position the x-ray machine over or in front of your abdomen and ask you to hold your breath so the picture won’t be blurry. The x-ray technician then may ask you to change position for additional pictures. Abdominal x-rays can show the location of kidney stones in the urinary tract. Not all stones are visible on abdominal x-ray.

Computed tomography (CT) scans. CT scans use a combination of x-rays and computer technology to create images of your urinary tract. Although a CT scan without contrast medium is most commonly used to view your urinary tract, a health care professional may give you an injection of contrast medium. Contrast medium is a dye or other substance that makes structures inside your body easier to see during imaging tests. You’ll lie on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped device that takes the x-rays. CT scans can show the size and location of a kidney stone, if the stone is blocking the urinary tract, and conditions that may have caused the kidney stone to form.

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

Kidney stones are small masses that can form from excess salt and minerals in the kidneys. Depending on their size, they can be eliminated by urine without being noticed or can get stuck in your kidneys and cause severe pain.

Kidney stones form over a long period of time. Throughout the first few months, a kidney stone will most likely be asymptomatic. After this time, if the stone has not yet been eliminated, the first symptoms will present themselves. How do you know if you have kidney stones? In this OneHowTo article, we will explain exactly how.

Kidney stones generally do not cause any pain while in the kidneys. If it is big enough, it is when the stone starts to make its way down the urethra (the tube that leads urine from the kidneys to the bladder) that the first symptoms appear.

How to know if you have kidney stones

A sudden, sharp pain in the side of your abdomen or belly tends to be the first symptom of a kidney stone passing through the urethra. The pain may also manifest itself in the groin, pelvis or testicles, depending on where the stone is situated.

If you suspect that you may have a kidney stone, look out for changes in your urine. A very dark urine or urine that is pink or red are signs that you may have one. If you do notice blood in your urine, it is very important that you seek immediate medical attention.

How to know if you have kidney stones

In addition to the above symptoms, you may have a fever, feel nauseous, and may even vomit.

If you think you have a kidney stone, consult your doctor for the correct diagnosis and treatment. It is likely that your doctor will perform an ultrasound to confirm your condition, and then, depending on the severity of the stone and where it is located, suggest different treatments. It is possible that you require medication to dissolve the stone, and, if the stone is very large, it may even be necessary to surgically remove it.

Learn how to prevent kidney stones and keep your kidneys healthy on

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How to know if I have kidney stones, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

People who have had kidney stones say there is nothing more painful. Your kidneys are the beginning or top part of your urinary system. The urine is filtered in the kidneys and comes down into your bladder through a ureter, one from each kidney. The urine is held in the urinary bladder until it is emptied, when the urine passes through the urethra and out the urethral opening.

A risk with kidney stones is a kidney infection, which can lead to sepsis. Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival.

Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly), and/or amputations.

Urine has no solids, but there are times when the crystals in urine join together to form a stone. Although there are several substances that can form stones, the four most common are made of:

  • Calcium – common and can recur
  • Cystine – an amino acid
  • Struvite – develop as a result of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Uric acid – a crystalline compound

How to know if you have kidney stones

How do you get kidney stones?

While we don’t know what causes stones to form, we do know some stones form more easily than others. Dehydration, not consuming enough fluids, can contribute to stones forming, as there may not be enough urine to wash out the microscopic crystals.

Calcium stones, the most common kidney stones, seem to affect more men than women and they are most often in the twenties when it happens.

  • Too much calcium in the urine caused by disease, such as hyperparathyroidism
  • Having too much sodium, usually taken in through salt

Although food doesn’t cause the stone formation, some people may be told to avoid high calcium foods if they are prone to developing stones.

Cystine stones are caused by a disorder that runs in families and affects both men and women.

Struvite stones are virtually always caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI) as a result of an enzyme secreted by certain types of bacteria. Because more women than men have UTIs, more women than men develop struvite stones. These stones can grow very large and can block the kidney, ureter, or bladder.

Uric acid stones affect more men than women and they can also occur in people who already get calcium stones. People who have high uric acid levels may have or develop gout.

What are the symptoms?

Some people don’t feel kidney stones until they start to move and try to exit the kidney. Some symptoms include:

  • Sharp, severe, cramping pain in the abdomen or side of the back
  • Pain can move to the groin or testicular area
  • Blood in the urine
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What treatments are available?

Because of the pain caused by kidney stones, many people find that they need pain relief. Many describe it as the worst pain they’ve ever felt.

If you have a kidney stone, you will be encouraged to drink a lot of water if you don’t have a medical condition that limits the amount you may have. The extra fluid is to help wash the stone through your urinary system.

If the stone doesn’t pass within a reasonable amount of time, your doctor may recommend extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). Shock waves are sent through to the stone to break them down into smaller pieces that can be passed. Sometimes, surgery may be needed.

The stone should be removed because of the high risk of infection, which could – in turn – lead to sepsis.

Can kidney stones be prevented?

While not all kidney stones can be prevented, there are ways to lower your risk of developing one or developing another one. The first and foremost way would be to drink enough fluids to ensure your urinary system gets flushed out well.

Your doctor could recommend that you avoid certain types of foods, but that is an individual call. For certain types of stones, sometimes medications are prescribed to help reduce the risk as well.

If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital and tell your medical professional, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”

How to know if you have kidney stones

The information here is also available as a Sepsis Information Guide, which is a downloadable format for easier printing.

Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.