If you’ve been experiencing pain around the renal area, you may be asking yourself, “What do kidney stones feel like?” This is a common concern for those of you who experience achiness, discomfort, or pain in the area where the two kidneys reside. Understanding what kidney stones feel like can be a valuable piece of information, because it can alert you to a potentially serious underlying condition. On the other hand, this knowledge could also enable you to rule-out the possibility of kidney stones.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones, or renal calculi, are crystalized pieces of mineral and salt deposits that are found naturally inside your kidneys. The kidneys serve a very important purpose, which is to filter toxins, waste products, and excess water out of the blood. These deposits and water turn into urine, which is passed down to the bladder and out of the body. The kidneys typically function very efficiently, as on average they process about 200 quarts of blood each day. Sometimes toxins being filtered from the blood occur in concentrated numbers, which can condense into a stone-like masse. If you don’t drink enough water, you are at increased risk of developing calculi in the kidneys because there is less water available to flush these substances out of your two bean-shaped organs. The stones come in several shapes and sizes – large and smooth; small and smooth; and jagged or sharp.
What Are the Symptoms of Renal Calculi?
Understanding what renal calculi feel like is an important part of deciding whether you may be dealing with a case of these stones. The following list contains 6 of the most common symptoms associated with renal calculi and an in-depth description of each. If you experience some of these symptoms, or if you continue to feel that something isn’t right, it is recommended that you see a doctor as soon as possible to obtain a formal diagnosis.
1. Belly or Back Pain
The kidneys are located towards the middle of the back, with one organ sitting on either side of the spinal column, around the area just below the back of the rib cage. The placement of these multitasking organs may cause some confusion as to where the discomfort is actually coming from, which is why some sufferers complain of belly pain, back pain, or pain in both regions. The pain can range in severity depending on the stones’ shape and size as well as their location. Some individuals are able to pass small, smooth stones with little or no pain at all. The pain in your belly, back, and/or sides can be a dull ache, or it may feel like an intense, sharp pain radiating down and out from the renal region. Moving around and changing positions usually will not ease the discomfort and it may be strong enough to wake you from a deep sleep. In most cases, the achiness will continue until the stone is broken down and/or passed through the urinary tract.
2. Discomfort in the Groin or Testicles
As a renal calculus leaves the kidney and makes its way down the urinary tract, discomfort may begin to radiate down towards the groin region. Depending on the stone’s size and texture, you may feel as though your groin area is being “torn up” or the lower abdomen may become swollen and tender. Inflammation may develop in this area due to the stone damaging the tissues of the urinary tract as it progresses downward. Pain in the testicular or vaginal regions may be an indication that the kidney stone is close to exiting the body. During this time, the pain will often be very sharp and intense. The discomfort may be short-lived, or it may hang around for a while. Pain in this area is often the reality of what renal calculi feel like as they are being passed.
3. Bloody Urine
As awful as the prospect may seem at first, the presence of blood in your urine is a fairly common kidney stone symptom. It is often accompanied by pain while urinating and the feeling that you need to urinate frequently, even when you cannot produce any urine. Blood in the urine does not necessarily mean that the renal calculus is on its way out of the body. In fact, blood can appear in your urine even when stones are still inside the kidney. Blood may not always be visible to the naked eye – the amount of blood may be so minimal that its presence may only be detected by a microscope.
4. Nausea and Vomiting
These are very common symptoms associated with the presence of stones in the kidneys. Pain brought on by the stone may be so intense that it triggers waves of nausea that may be potent enough to cause you to vomit. The increased nausea may affect your ability to eat, as this particular symptom, paired with intense pain, is likely to leave you with a noticeable lack of appetite. Failure to keep food and drinks down as a result of kidney-related pain, particularly if the issue lasts for an extended period of time, should be taken seriously and a doctor should be contacted if this situation arises.
5. General Discomfort
When a kidney stone attack flares up, you will likely try to assume many different positions in order to find one that relieves some of the pain. In some cases, it may be possible to find a position that alleviates most of the discomfort, particularly if the stone is still located within the kidney. If the stone is traveling to the bladder, or from the bladder through the urethra, changing position will probably not ease your pain because there is nowhere else for the stone to go. Kidney stone attacks can work in waves, during which time you may be able to find a bit of comfort during a cessation of pain. This “on and off” scenario can become very frustrating, especially at night, and frequently results in sleeplessness.
If you have some of the symptoms indicative of the presence of stones in your kidney and you begin to run a low-grade fever, you can rest assured that you probably aren’t dealing with an infection. Some individuals suffering from nephrolithiasis will run a low fever, under 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The body’s immune system is designed to respond to even seemingly remote threats. The detection of tissue damage caused by the kidney stone may warrant a small fever as the immune system determines whether an infection is present. If you begin to run a higher fever, there is reason to believe that an infection exists – the immune system will raise the body’s temperature in an effort to make the body less survivable for the infectious organism. This symptom should warrant a trip to the doctor as an antibiotic will likely be necessary to get rid of the infection.
What Causes the Presence of Stones in the Kidneys?
The precise cause behind renal calculi isn’t yet known, but scientists have discovered that certain factors raise your chances of developing the stones in your kidney. Having a family history of nephrolithiasis can significantly increase your chances of procuring this condition in your lifetime. Although the stones can develop at any age, they seem most common in adults over the age of 40, and are more likely to occur in men than in women. Those who frequently suffer from dehydration on any level are more prone to developing stones in their kidney, as are those who maintain diets high in sodium, sugar, and/or protein. Some evidence has also shown that obese individuals run a higher risk of developing the stones compared to individuals within a healthy weight range.