Frequently asked questions about Renal Lithiasis

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Could you have a kidney stone and not have any symptoms?

Yes. In fact, it is not uncommon for kidney stones to be asymptomatic.

What are the key symptoms that make you suspect the presence of urinary stones?

Those that are explained in the section on renal colic: low-back pain with peaks and troughs of intensity that can move towards the abdomen and genitals, nausea, vomiting, pallor, sweating.

What can I do if the pain is severe?

Follow the treatment recommendations prescribed by your healthcare professional or seek emergency medical care. Try to relax in the position that makes you the most comfortable and apply local heat and, if possible, take a bath in warm water. It is advisable to urinate into a container or filter your urine with a gauze or filter to try to collect the stone and confirm that it has been passed. Then, if possible, it can be analysed. Once the stone has been passed, this brings the episode to an end.

When should I go to the doctor?

If the pain does not subside or keeps increasing despite treatment with the painkillers prescribed by your healthcare professional, changes in position and local heat. If you are pregnant, you have a single working kidney, or a debilitating illness. Also, if you get a fever or stop urinating.

Is there a relationship between the existence of a urinary tract infection and the presence or passing of kidney stones?

The answer is YES for one of the types of lithiasis: infective lithiasis. Urinary tract infection increases the pH of the urine and urinary ammonium, which leads to ammonium magnesium phosphate or ammonium urate crystals forming (if there is a high concentration of uric acid in the urine as well), resulting in stones.

What are the symptoms of having an infection associated with a lithiasic episode with renal colic?

In addition to the typical symptoms of renal colic (intense lower back pain with flare-ups, nausea, vomiting, pallor, sweating), there is also general malaise, fever, chills, and there may be discomfort when urinating.

If I have had a stone removed, could new stones form over time?

Yes. Approximately 50% of patients who have had a lithiasic episode, may have another within 5 years.

Is what you eat and drink always the cause of kidney stones?

Nutrition plays an important role in stone formation, as explained above, but it is not the only reason. In some cases, there may be a family history that increases the risk of suffering this disease.

What should I do with the stone I have passed?

If you have managed to retrieve the stone that was expelled when you urinated, it is important that you save it and bring it with you on the day of your doctor's appointment. It will be sent to the laboratory for analysis. Knowing what it is composed of can help determine which steps should be taken to try to decrease the likelihood of further stones, including dietary modifications.

What is the most effective measure to prevent kidney stones?

One of the most effective and direct measures for decreasing the risk of kidney stones is to drink enough fluids (preferably water). The more fluid you take in, the more diluted the urine becomes, making it less likely that stones will form.

How do I know if I am getting enough fluid (water) in my diet?

Pay attention to the appearance of your urine: if it is clear or light-coloured, you are probably drinking enough fluid. On the other hand, if it is a bright yellow-orange colour, you are not.

Can I take medication to prevent kidney stones from recurring?

Yes, depending on the cause and the type of stone.

What should I know if I have a ureteral catheter or double-J stent?

Sometimes, due to lithiasis, a ureteral catheter, double-J stent, or pigtail stent, is placed in the urinary tract so that urine can pass from the kidney to the bladder and prevent the ureter from becoming blocked by a stone until it is treated.

This catheter is usually temporary and stays in for a few weeks or months. Some catheters are left in for a year. It is important to understand that they can become calcified, which complicates their extraction.

The catheter may produce the following symptoms: blood-tinged urine, spasms in the bladder because the end of the catheter rubs against the inside of the bladder and irritates it, a stinging sensation when urinating, or having to urinate very often. Also, sometimes, when you are urinating you may feel a sharp pain in the kidney area. 

Some people experience no symptoms at all.

Substantiated information by:

Bárbara Romano Andrioni
Pilar Luque

Published: 16 November 2020
Updated: 16 November 2020

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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