Symptoms - Kidney stones

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: 15/06/2019