Kidney Stone (cont.)

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What are kidney stones symptoms and signs?

While some kidney stones may not produce symptoms (known as "silent" stones), people who have kidney stones often report the sudden onset of excruciating, cramping pain in their low back and/or side, groin, or abdomen. Changes in body position do not relieve this pain. The abdominal, groin, and/or back pain typically waxes and wanes in severity, characteristic of colicky pain (the pain is sometimes referred to as renal colic). It may be so severe that it is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The pain has been described by many as the worst pain of their lives, even worse than the pain of childbirth or broken bones. Kidney stones also characteristically cause blood in the urine. If infection is present in the urinary tract along with the stones, there may be fever and chills. Sometimes, symptoms such as difficulty urinating, urinary urgency, penile pain, or testicular pain may occur due to kidney stones.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

The diagnosis of kidney stones is suspected when the typical pattern of symptoms is noted and when other possible causes of the abdominal or flank pain are excluded. Imaging tests are usually done to confirm the diagnosis. A helical CT scan without contrast material is the most common test to detect stones or obstruction within the urinary tract. Formerly, an intravenous pyelogram (IVP; an X-ray of the abdomen along with the administration of contrast dye into the bloodstream) was the test most commonly used to detect urinary tract stones, but this test has a greater risk of complications, takes longer, and involves higher radiation exposure than the non-contrasted helical CT scan. Helical CT scans have been shown to be a significantly more effective diagnostic tool than the IVP in the diagnosis of kidney or urinary tract stones.

In pregnant women or those who should avoid radiation exposure, an ultrasound examination may be done to help establish the diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/1/2013

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