When to Go to the ER for Kidney Stones

When to Go to the ER

Jan 7, 2020


When you suddenly experience severe pain in the abdomen, your mind races to what could be causing the problem — is it your gallbladder, a cyst (if you’re a woman), or your kidneys? Has your time on this earth finally reached an end? While that last question may be a little dramatic, most people experiencing sudden, extreme pain usually only think about one thing while in the moment — how to make the pain stop.

When the cause is kidney stones, a trip to the emergency room is typically your best bet. But, what if you’re not yet experiencing excruciating pain? How do you know when severe is severe enough?

Causes of Kidney Stones

When there is an imbalance of water, salt, and mineral water in your urine, you may begin developing small crystals that turn into stones within your kidneys. As the stones grow in size, they can lead to severe pain and other symptoms. But, before enlarging, they’re often resolved without any medical interference.

Kidney stones typically occur when you’re drinking less water than what your body needs. People in warmer climates are often more susceptible, as they sweat more and require more water to stay hydrated. But, other factors can increase your risk of developing kidney stones — including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Signs of Kidney Stones

It’s not uncommon for kidney stones to begin to occur but resolve without any medical treatment. In these minor cases and similar mild cases, it’s fairly common not to experience any symptoms. However, kidney stones, if left untreated, can enlarge and become infected — posing a dangerous problem. When this happens, you’ll experience:

When to Go to the ER for Kidney Stones

In addition to the symptoms above, you should visit the emergency room immediately if you have:

  • A fever higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Burning during urination
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Intolerable pain
  • Certain medical conditions that make passing a stone more dangerous — such as diabetes or decreased kidney function

At the ER, you’ll be administered an x-ray and/or CT scan of your abdomen and pelvis. This is to determine that you do have kidney stones and are not experiencing symptoms of a different condition. Once confirmed, you’ll be prescribed medications to help alleviate the pain and manage your symptoms.

In some cases where the kidney stone has grown too large, surgery may be required. When this is the case, you’re administered a non-invasive shockwave treatment procedure — or something similar — to remove the enlarged kidney stone.

Treatment for Kidney Stones

In some cases, an ER visit isn’t necessary. This includes not having severe symptoms, but still feeling some discomfort around the abdomen, groin, genitals, and side area. When this is the case, there are three main ways to treat your kidney stones:

  • Allowing the stone to pass on its own
  • Using medications to help the stone pass
  • Surgery to treat or remove the stone

Your treatment options are dependent on the size and location of the kidney stone. A good rule of thumb is that if your kidney stone is larger than 5 millimeters, then you’ll likely need surgery to remove the mass.

Preventing Kidney Stones

To lower your risk of kidney stones, you should drink the suggested amount of water per day. For the average adult, this should be eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. This increases when experiencing warmer conditions — such as from warmer climates or exercising. Since obesity can also raise your risk, if your BMI is within the obese range, you should talk to your doctor about making lifestyle changes and creating a diet plan that works with your body type.

Emergency Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you or a loved one are showing signs of kidney stones, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Find the Complete Care location nearest you.