Kidney stones that are above the pelvis of the kidney (the basin-shaped cavity at the base of each kidney into which urine is funneled) usually do not cause symptoms.
Symptoms often occur when a stone migrates into the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder, and prevents the drainage of urine from the kidney.
When stones are present in the ureter, a person may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain. Pain is the major symptom of a kidney stone. A cramping pain (called renal colic) may be felt as the muscular wall of the ureter contracts in an attempt to push the stone to the bladder. The pain may be on the side of the abdomen or in the middle of the abdomen (if the stone is at the beginning of the ureter). It also may travel into the groin (if the stone is lower in the ureter). In some cases, the pain is severe enough to require medication.
- Nausea and vomiting. These symptoms often accompany severe pain caused by a kidney stone.
- Blood in the urine. A person may be able to see blood in the urine, or it might be detected through a laboratory test. The presence of blood is the result of damage to the lining of the ureter or tissue damage inside the kidney.
- Increase in frequency or urgency of
urination, or the inability to urinate. These symptoms, which impact the normal ability to urinate, often occur as a stone passes from the end of the ureter into the bladder.
There are other possible consequences of kidney stones. Partial or complete obstruction of a kidney by a stone may lead to a backup of urine in the blood, along with its potentially toxic component, urea. If this happens, the kidney may suffer damage to its tubules (the microscopic chemical plants that manufacture urine) and to their associated blood vessels.
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