Kidney stones may not cause any symptoms (for example, pain). However, in the majority of situations, the first symptom of a kidney stone is extreme pain. This usually starts suddenly as the stones moves into an area of the kidney and blocks the flow of urine. The most common first site of blockage is the ureteropelvic junction (this is where the urinary collecting system forms a funnel shape). Sharp or cramping pain is typically experienced in the lower back with some radiation of pain around to the front of the body. If the stone is relatively small, then it may continue to pass into the ureter (small channel connecting the kidney to the urinary bladder). The pain may become dull or cramping and more localized to the front of the body in the lower quadrant. As the stone continues to move toward the urinary bladder, “shooting” pains may be felt in the scrotum (men) or labia (women) and associated with the following additional symptoms:
- Frequency of urination
- Urgency (perceived need to urinate, although the urinary bladder is relatively empty)
- Dysuria (burning associated with urination)
- Hematuria (blood in the urine)
At any time during a kidney stone attack, nausea and vomiting may occur along with a loss of appetite. If the urine is infected, then a person may have a fever associated with chills.
The most common risk factor for kidney stone disease is dehydration (lack of water intake).