Very small kidney stones are unlikely to cause many symptoms. It may even go undetected and pass out painlessly when you urinate.

Symptoms usually occur if the kidney stone:

  • gets stuck in your kidney
  • starts to travel down the ureter (the tube that attaches each kidney to the bladder) – the ureter is narrow and kidney stones can cause pain as they try to pass through
  • causes an infection

In these cases, the symptoms of kidney stones can include:

  • a persistent ache in the lower back, which is sometimes also felt in the groin – men may have pain in their testicles and scrotum
  • periods of intense pain in the back or side of your abdomen, or occasionally in your groin, which may last for minutes or hours
  • feeling restless and unable to lie still
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • needing to urinate more often than normal
  • pain when you urinate (dysuria)
  • blood in your urine (haematuria) – this may be caused by the stone scratching the kidney or ureter

Blocked ureter and kidney infection

A kidney stone that blocks the ureter can lead to a kidney infection. This is because waste products are unable to pass the blockage, which may cause a build-up of bacteria.

The symptoms of a kidney infection are similar to symptoms of kidney stones, but may also include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over
  • chills and shivering
  • feeling very weak or tired
  • diarrhoea
  • cloudy and bad-smelling urine

Read more about kidney infections.

Types of kidney stones

Kidney stones come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. Some are like grains of sand, while in rare cases others can grow to the size of a golf ball.

The four main types of kidney stones are:

  • calcium stones
  • struvite stones – contain magnesium and ammonia; often horn-shaped and quite large
  • uric acid stones – usually smooth, brown and softer than other types of kidney stones
  • cystine stones – often yellow and resemble crystals rather than stones

Page last reviewed: 15/06/2016

Next review due: 15/06/2018