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Symptoms of Kidney Stones and Diagnosis

Kidney stones symptoms may be numerous. The most common symptom associated with renal stones is renal colic. As the stones pass through the kidney tubules, they disrupt kidney function and may cause injury to the kidney.  People with renal colic secondary to renal stones commonly complain of excruciating, spastic pain in the lower abdomen and flank pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The pain often radiates to the ribs due to the irritation of the intercostal nerves.

Renal Obstruction Symptoms

Renal obstruction occurs when the stones continue accumulating to form large calculi. Obstruction is due to either size or the shape of the stones. People in this condition may be likely to complain of pyuria or pain during urination, inability to void urine and recurrent urinary tract infection.

Another common manifestation of renal stones is the crampy pain in the flanks due to the passage or obstruction of the stones in the ureter. Due to the small diameter of the ureter, stones tend to get struck, causing spastic contractions of the ureter and producing flank pain.

Kidney Stone Diagnosis

Diagnosis of renal stones may be obtained through specific physical examination and laboratory tests. In physical exam, when suspecting renal stones, the “kidney-punch sign” is performed by slightly punching the left and right kidneys alternatively. The test may be positive if there is pain when the kidney is slightly punched. The movement of the stones initiated by the punching causes the pain.

What You Need to Know  

It’s important to know the various tools used to establish a diagnosis of kidney stones. A diagnosis of kidney stones may mean that there are also other kidney conditions present, such as, a kidney infection which may be life threatening without timely attention.

X-Ray and Ultrasound

One of the most important tools for diagnosing kidney stones is the Kidney-Ureter-bladder radiology studies, such as, X-Ray and Ultrasound (sonography). Kidney Stones are visualized as hyper echoic dense materials in the kidneys in radiology studies. KUB ultrasound may also visualize the specific area of the urinary tract affected by the stones. The accuracy in X-Ray and Ultrasound testing results depend, in part, on the level of expertise of the radiologist in interpreting the results.

Lab Tests

Urinalysis is also usually performed. Kidney Stones tend to cause wall damage in the kidney tubules which can be seen in the urine analysis as hematuria – the presence of blood cells in the urine.  The obstruction caused by renal stones will most of the time lead to bacterial growth causing  urinary tract infection or kidney infection, known as, pyelonephritis and glomerolunephritis. Other helpful tests are blood tests include: serum Calcium, Phosphates, bicarbonate and urate. An increase of these minerals may suggest renal stones.

Your Health Access Alert

Your insurance may play a role in dictating the timeliness of additional testing to support a conclusive diagnosis of kidney stones. If you have any concerns about the diagnosis, it may be prudent to seek out additional tests or obtain a second opinion in a timely fashion regardless of insurance constraints. In the case of questionable kidney stones, a CAT Scan or surgery may offer a more accurate diagnosis, particularly in the presence of painful symptoms and other conditions, such as, a kidney infection.  

Next Visit, Kidney Stone Treatment Options

It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition.