Kidney stones: Emergency first aid

Kidney stones can be the size of a pinhead and grow to the size of a walnut. In Switzerland, around 5 % of the population will have a kidney stone at some point in their life. What are the symptoms of kidney stones and how can they be treated?

What is it?

What is a kidney stone?

Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis in medical terminology, form from the substances found in urine. They can form in the kidneys, renal pelvis or urethra. Kidney stones can form for various reasons. In addition to genetic predisposition, factors such as profuse sweating or too little fluid intake can affect them. 

Men get kidney stones more frequently than women. The likelihood of kidney stones recurring is relatively high: if a person has had kidney stones in the past, there is an increased risk that new kidney stones will form in the future. 

Find out more about the clinical picture for kidney stones.

 

What are the symptoms?

How do I know if I have a kidney stone?

Kidney stones have different symptoms depending on their location and how mobile they are. Ideally, kidney stones do not cause any pain and go unnoticed because they are excreted in the urine naturally. Larger kidney stones can interfere with the urinary flow and cause discomfort.

Kidney stones may be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Suddenly occurring, strong, wave-like pain either in the back, lower lateral abdomen or radiating in the groin and genital area (renal colic).
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Frequent urination of small volumes and urge to urinate that cannot be suppressed
  • Pain during urination, blood in the urine
  • Fever and chills
What should you do?

What helps with kidney stones?

How a kidney stone is treated depends greatly on its size. The person should see a doctor in order to evaluate the size of the kidney stone and to discuss possible treatment options:

Small kidney stones up to 5 mm in diameter

These do not require any special treatment. 85 % of all cases involve small kidney stones. These people can pass the kidney stone naturally in their urine. It can help to spontaneously pass the kidney stone by drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of exercise.

Large kidney stones at least 5 mm diameter in size

Larger kidney stones can be broken down with shock waves and then passed in the natural way. Minor surgical procedures or pharmacological treatments are available as well.