Kidney stones, UTI and other painful conditions
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If it hurts to pee, or if your urine is a shade of pink to dark like cola, something may be wrong with your urinary tract.
Some pain, like that brought on by passing a kidney stone, is sharp, sudden and arrives in intense waves. Conditions like urinary tract infections can cause pain that hurts near where the infection is located, from the upper back to the pelvis.
At Rutherford Urology, your urologist will assess your condition, perform tests to diagnose the cause of your pain and recommend a treatment plan.
Healthy kidneys can filter a half cup of blood every minute, turning waste and excess water into urine. Kidney stones form when there are more crystal-causing minerals than your urine can dilute. Your urine may also lack certain chemicals that prevent the crystals from forming in the first place.
Causes: There are several types of kidney stone, the most common being calcium oxalate. Oxalate occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, and is also produced in your liver. These stones form when your urine contains too many minerals like calcium, oxalate and uric acid.
Other stones can include struvite stones (which form in response to an infection), uric acid stones (which form in people who don’t drink enough fluid, lose too much fluid, eat a high-protein diet or have gout), and cystine stones (which form in people whose kidneys excrete too much cystinuria, an amino acid).
Signs and symptoms: Small kidney stones may not produce any symptoms and pass painlessly. However, larger stones may get caught in your ureter (the tube that connects your kidney and bladder), your urethra (the tube where urine exits the bladder) or elsewhere.
A kidney stone may cause the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
- Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
- Pain on urination
- Pink, red or brown urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Persistent need to urinate
- Urinating more often than usual
- Fever and chills if an infection is present
- Urinating small amounts
As the kidney stones move through your urinary tract, pain may move along with it.
Treatment options: Drinking more water may help. Your urologist may recommend drinking as much as 2 to 3 quarts of water per day. You want to drink enough fluid to produce as clear urine as possible.
Your urologist may also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, or prescribe medicine to relax muscles in your urinary tract to help the kidney stone pass more quickly and with less pain. If those therapies don’t work, your urologist may try sound waves, surgery or a scope inserted into your urethra to find and break up the stone.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that get into the urinary tract, particularly the bladder and urethra.
Infection to your bladder can be painful and frustrating but can lead to serious consequences if it spreads to your kidneys.
Causes: UTI is more common in women because of the proximity of the urethra to the anus, where bacteria like E. coli are common. Women also have a shorter urethra than men, which means a shorter distance for the bacteria to travel to the bladder.
Since the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and mycoplasma, can also cause UTI.
Signs and symptoms: UTI cause redness and irritation to the urinary tract. This may produce some of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the side, abdomen or pelvic area
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
- Painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
Treatment options: Antibiotics typically cure urinary tract infections.
This chronic bladder condition causes pressure and/or pain in the bladder or pelvic region. The pain ranges from mild discomfort to severe pain.
Causes: The cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown, and there’s no known cure. However, medications and other therapies may offer relief.
Signs and symptoms: Interstitial cystitis may resemble a chronic urinary tract infection, but there's usually no infection. Other signs and symptoms vary from person to person. They include:
- Pain in your pelvis or between the vagina and anus in women
- Pain between the scrotum and anus in men
- Chronic pelvic pain
- A persistent, urgent need to urinate
- Frequent urination, often of small amounts, up to 60 times a day
- Pain or discomfort while the bladder fills and relief after urinating.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
Symptoms severity is different for everyone, and some people may experience symptom-free periods.
Treatment options: No one single treatment works for everyone, but a combination of various treatments may help you, including physical therapy, medicine to relieve symptoms, nerve stimulation with electric impulses, medicine inserted into your bladder and surgery.