How to Tell If You Have Kidney Stones
If you start feeling a dull or achy pain in your mid-back that won't go away, drink lots of water and go see your doctor. If you experience excruciating pain that radiates from your back to your abdomen with no relief, go to the emergency room. Kidney damage can potentially result from ignoring your symptoms.
I actually have a family history of kidney issues, and my brother has been getting kidney stones for 20 years. He told me that whenever he starts feeling back pain, he floods his system with as much water as he can possibly stand. He will usually pass a kidney stone within 24 to 48 hours.
Despite telling my doctor about my family history, my back pain was misdiagnosed and my kidney stones went untreated for a painfully long time.
Backache That Wouldn't Go Away
For me, it all started in May of 2009 as a backache that wouldn’t go away.
I started looking online for images of human back anatomy, and I realized that my pain was coming from near where the kidneys are. I called my doctor since I have a family history of kidney issues.
Once I was in the medical office, the attending physician’s assistant asked me to show him where my pain was coming from. I showed him, and he said it must be muscle pain resulting from back strain. I told him I thought it was coming from my kidney since I have a family history. He informed me that my urine and bloodwork were normal. He gave me a prescription for Lortab and sent me on my way.
Incorrectly Diagnosed UTI
Two weeks later, I developed what the doctor suspected was a UTI. I had horrible urgency and frequency, but very little urine would come. I was in extreme discomfort and feeling worse by the day. After another trip to the doctor’s office, I received a prescription for Cipro. A week later, the urgency was still there, so the doctor called in a prescription for Levaquin. After finishing that, I still felt the urgency to urinate with no relief.
By this time, three weeks had passed, and I decided to see another doctor. I told him my symptoms, and he told me it was due to my advancing age (I was only 37). He literally told me to put Greek yogurt in my vagina to ease the pain and discomfort.
At this point, I felt like giving up. Perhaps I was being oversensitive. Or maybe this really was just a normal part of aging.
By now, I was having pains in the middle of the night that felt like unescapable pressure on the right side of my abdomen. Nothing would relieve the pain. Sometimes I thought I might have eaten some bad food, and I just tried to ride out the pain until I could fall asleep again.
Finally, after months of pain and discomfort, my husband took me to the emergency room at Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, Florida. The ER doctor immediately questioned my motives for being there and suggested that I was just trying to get drugs. I was in tears! My husband was very firm with him and stood up for me, personally attesting to my suffering over the previous few months.
Reluctantly, the doctor ordered a urine sample and a CT scan. Forty-five minutes later, we finally had a diagnosis: multiple kidney stones in both kidneys, including a 6 mm stone in my left kidney, several smaller stones in the right kidney, and a stone in my bladder. My urine contained both blood and white blood cells in it (a high white blood cell count can be an indication of infection).
I was discharged and sent home with pain pills, a cone-shaped filter, a small specimen cup with a lid, a referral to see a urologist, and instructions to drink a lot of water.
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Passing the First Kidney Stone
I followed hospital orders, and the following day I passed a 4.4 mm calcium oxalate kidney stone. The pain in my lower abdomen was absolutely intense. It felt like a broken piece of glass cutting me from the inside. I dropped to my knees, crying out loud, begging for relief from the unbearable pain. I managed to crawl to the toilet and eventually collect the stone in the cone-shaped filter that the ER nurse had given me the night before.
I brought the kidney stone to my urologist, and lab results revealed that it was a calcium oxalate stone. The urologist sent me an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) X-ray and arranged for an extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) procedure to break up a 6 mm stone lodged in my left kidney.
I had my ESWL procedure about a week ago, and it left a small welt on my back that disappeared after a couple of days. The day after the procedure, I started passing stone fragments, which I saved in a Ziploc bag.
The next step will be to go for a follow-up X-ray, as well as a 24-hour urine sample to investigate the chemistry of my urine. This will help determine which vitamins and minerals I have too much of or too little of.
In the meantime, I've been instructed to stay away from foods that contain high amounts of oxalate, such as chocolate (no success there since I am a chocolate lover), tea, peanut butter, spinach, nuts, and many more foods that I enjoy.
2018 Update: Another Kidney Stone
I wrote this original article in 2009 when I was 38 years old. After this painful experience, I thankfully remained free from kidney-related issues for nine years.
However, in 2018 I passed another kidney stone in the emergency room and was told that I had more small non-obstructing stones in both kidneys. The stones were about 1 mm, and the largest one was 2 mm. I was instructed to drink lots of water to try and flush them from my body.
When I called my brother to tell him about my plight he told me he had a stone in his right kidney that measured an astonishing 10 mm x 17 mm! He had been passing an average of two kidney stones per year since he was 29 years old. One year, he passed eight stones. He has had numerous surgeries over the years to remove calcium oxalate stones. Poor guy!
Be Proactive and Seek Help
I can't stress this enough: If you start feeling a dull or achy pain in your mid-back that won't go away, start drinking lots of water and go see your doctor. Kidney stones are no joke, and I wouldn't wish them on anyone.
I've shared my personal story here, but you can find plenty of resources online that will provide more information about signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment—as well as prevention. I've listed a few of these resources below.
Wishing you health and happiness...
- 6 Easy Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones | National Kidney Foundation
Did you know that one in ten people will have a kidney stone over the course of a lifetime? Stay stone-free with these 6 kidney stone prevention tips.
- Kidney stones - Diagnosis and treatment | Mayo Clinic
A comprehensive overview that covers symptoms, risks, causes, treatment of this often intensely painful condition.
- Lithotripsy | National Kidney Foundation
What is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)? It's a technique for treating stones in the kidney and ureter that does not require surgery.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
maria31maria on January 28, 2019:
I am a doctor. I want to tell you that the first symptoms of renal calculus are pain and the sensation of grit when urinating. Also other symptoms are blood in the urine. http://cirujanoplasticocesar.com
Annemarie Hooper (author) from Citrus Springs, Florida on July 20, 2014:
My stones are Calcium Oxylate. It is the most common form of stone. I read that kidney stones are more prevalent in populations of people in Florida and the Great Lakes, for some reason I am not aware of. Perhaps the mineral composition of our drinking water supply.
Mo on July 19, 2014:
I have passed a 4mm stone today after extreme pain. It looks exactly as your stone. What type of kidney stone for s it?
Amelia on August 14, 2013:
I only have one kidney, and have yearly ultrasounds. This year the report said at least 3 stones - 2 at 6mm and 1 at 3mm. Then I was sent a few weeks later for ct which was reported as no evidence of stones. Could I of passed these without knowing???
Theoni on April 12, 2013:
This is similar to what has happened to me. I've been to the ER three times over the past 6 months and all three times the diagnosis was back pain/ muscle sprain. It's been about 3 months since I've slept through the night I usually wake up every 2-3 hours and have to sit up for 20 minutes to half and hour until the pain passes. The last time I went to the ER which was 4 nights ago they found blood and white blood cells in my urine but they claim it was a contaminated sample. They sent me home with no scans and nothing for pain and no tips on how to make my "back pain" better other than to replace my 6 month old bed. I went to my DR and she agreed it's probably kidney stones and I go in for a CT scan in a couple days.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 25, 2012:
Your story sounds much like a friend's. He was suffering something fierce, was shrugged off and eventually told he had muscle sprain. He ended up giving birth to three huge stones. We named them Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego because they were birthed through fiery pain.
I hope you never have to suffer this again!
commentator7 on August 18, 2012:
im only 18, 7 month pregnant and just 1 week ago, had extreme sharp shooting pain from bottom of my abdomen, middle of my back and down into my groin, an ambulance was called for the pain i was in got the hospital and was urinating pure blood which then made me think there was something wrong with the baby but luckily baby is fine i had a severe case of kidney stones and was on constant antibiotics and now i have to take preventative antibiotics so another one is unlikely to occur
pppremoval on August 04, 2012:
It is horrible to imagine ,the pain .the sharp edges of the stone has caused you .
Citrate keeps this type of kidney stone under check by making the urine more alkaline. This salt of citric acid is rich in citrus fruits and lemons are of great help to discourage the production of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Extract juice from fresh lemons and combine ½ a cup of concentrated juice in 2 liters of water and consume at regular intervals every day to increase urinary citrate levels. Regular consumption of lemon juice in large amounts also can assist in reducing the size of existing stones for easy elimination.
kdjd on July 16, 2012:
I dont know why a doctor would tell you to drink cranberry juice for a kidney stone it makes them worse! Cranberry juice is for kidney infections not stones.
Robyn Toronto on July 03, 2012:
Having kidney stones twice, my doctor suggested that I start drinking cranberry juice daily every morning, as cranberries are supposed to help prevent the formation of kidney stones. Well, I am not a big fan of juice, so thought I would give the Cranberry Concentrate from Lady Soma Products a try. It's a cranberry supplement with Vitamin C in it. I am very pleased with the product, and it has totally helped!
Cranberry juice tastes awful and is mostly sugar, and the antibiotics give me stomachaches. Absolutely no side effects for this Lady Soma Cranberry Supplement. Don't know now what I'd do without it.
Ashley on June 05, 2012:
Okay here is my issue, I Have multiple kidney stones and although I had a lithotripsy weeks agoand have already passed a small piece of one I still have a 5mm & another part of the other in my left kidney. Although no sign of passing what's left I'm having severe pain and nausea occasionally from my kidney . . . And have no clue as to why? Doc says it shouldn't hurt. Is it possible it tries to pass causes the pain and nausea can't and returns from the opening back into the kidney? Sorta like a gallstone would?
cornbred on November 15, 2010:
I just passed a 4mm oxylate stone and a few other fragments... No fun.
Annemarie Hooper (author) from Citrus Springs, Florida on October 01, 2010:
Alejandra, you should go see a doctor and tell them exactly where you are hurting. If you get severe, debilitating pains that bring you to your knees or take your breath away, go to the nearest Emergency Room and they should give you a CT scan. I hope you get better soon! Make sure you drink A lot of water, and stay away from sweet tea!
alejandra jimenez on October 01, 2010:
i have really bad pains and i have a lot of the symptoms of kidney stones what can i do? because this pain is killing me.
veronica on October 05, 2009:
i was just diagnosed with multiple kidney stones. my story is about the same. i have had many problems for 2 years with bladdar,urinary track and kidneys infections. my doctores cant figure out why i have been gettig so many. im only 18. this past week i went to the E.R. and they said i just had comstipation but I knew i didn't so when the pain didn't go away i went to my family doc who sent me for a ct scan and they person who scaned me said i had nothing but 2 days later my dr got the pics of my kidney and noticed multiple stones. i have not passed any yet but heard its close to the worst pain ever other then child birth.
stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on October 05, 2009:
Informative article. God Bless you and your family
Annemarie Hooper (author) from Citrus Springs, Florida on September 19, 2009:
I feel bad for your mom. They say it is worse if you live near the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks for the encouragement!
zadrobi from Carbondale, IL on September 18, 2009:
My mom went through the same thing. They told here it may have been caused by the amount of calcium in the water where she lives. An informative account of an unsavory time. Good start :)