Renal colic

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is Renal colic?

Renal colic is a type of pain you get when urinary stones block part of your urinary tract. Your urinary tract includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

You can get stones anywhere in your urinary tract. They form when minerals like calcium and uric acid get stuck together in your urine and create hard crystals. The stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. When these stones grow big enough, they can become very painful.

How common is Renal colic?

About 12 percent of men and 6 percent of women will get one or more urinary stones in their lifetime. The rate of renal colic is increasing due to changes in our diet and lifestyle habits. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Renal colic?

Symptoms of renal colic can vary based on the size of the stone and its location in the urinary tract. Some small stones cause only mild renal colic, and a person may pass them in the urine without much discomfort.

Larger stones can cause excruciating pain, especially if they get stuck and block any small points in the urinary tract, such as where it meets the kidney or urinary bladder, or the ureter — the tube through which the urine passes between the kidney and the bladder.

The most common presentation of renal colic is pain that occurs on the affected side of the body between the lower ribs and hip that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin.

The pain tends to come in waves that can last from 20 to 60 minutes before subsiding until the next wave.

Renal colic is just one of the symptoms caused by urinary stones. Other symptoms that typically occur alongside renal colic include:

  • Pain or difficulty urinating
  • Blood in the urine which may give it a pinkish, red, or brown color
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Small particles in the urine
  • Feeling a constant urgent need to urinate
  • Cloudy urine
  • Urinating more or less than normal

Signs of a related urinary tract infection may show up in some cases. These include fever, chills, and cold sweat. Anybody experiencing any of these symptoms should talk to a doctor.

Anyone experiencing the following symptoms in addition to renal colic should contact emergency medical services immediately:

  • Complete inability to urinate
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • A fever over 38°C

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Renal colic?

Renal colic happens when a stone gets lodged in your urinary tract, often in a ureter. The stone stretches and widens the area, causing intense pain.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Renal colic?

There are many risk factors for Renal colic, such as:

  • A diet high in substances that cause stones to form, such as oxalate or protein
  • A family or personal history of stones
  • Dehydration from not drinking enough fluid, or from losing too much fluid through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Obesity
  • Gastric bypass surgery, which increases your body’s absorption of calcium and other substances that form stones
  • Metabolic disorders, inherited diseases, hyperparathyroidism, and other conditions that can increase the amount of stone-forming substances in your body
  • Urinary tract infection

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Renal colic diagnosed?

Doctors will often use blood tests to check for increased levels of stone-forming substances in a person’s body. An imaging test such as a plain film X-ray, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or ultrasound can help locate any significant stones in the urinary tract.

How is Renal colic treated?

Medical treatment will often depend on the type of stone a person is experiencing. There are some different types of stones, including:

  • Calcium stones are the most common types of stones and are made up of calcium oxalate
  • Uric acid stones develop when uric acid concentrates in the urine
  • Cystine stones are rare and are caused by the disorder cystinuria
  • Struvite stones are less common stones caused by certain bacteria in the urinary tract

Most small stones are considered passable. In fact, up to 80 percent of stones will pass out of the body in the urine. Doctors will recommend proper hydration and may prescribe pain-relieving medications to help deal with the pain while monitoring the stone until it passes.

There is a range of procedures to help remove larger stones and relieve renal colic. These include:

  • Ureteroscopy guided stone extraction: This is an invasive surgical procedure where a doctor inserts a thin scope with a light and camera on it into the urinary tract to locate the stone and remove it.
  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL): A noninvasive treatment, ESWL is the process of aiming small soundwaves at the kidneys to break up stones into tiny pieces. These fragments are then passed in the urine.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is typically done under general anesthesia. It is the process of entering the kidney through a small cut in the back and using a lighted scope and small instruments to remove the stone.
  • Stent placement: Sometimes, doctors will place a thin tube into a person’s ureter to help relieve the obstruction and promote the passing of stones.
  • Open surgery: Some people who cannot pass the stones may require open surgery, but it has a longer recovery time. Doctors will often try to extract or break up the stones so a person can pass them before considering open surgery.

Treatment may also include medications designed to help relieve symptoms or reduce the accumulation of stones. These treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Alkalinizing agents
  • Corticosteroids
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Selective alpha-1 blockers

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Renal colic?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Renal colic:

  • Some people may also respond to placing a heat pack on their side or lower back, as it may calm the muscle spasms associated with renal colic.
  • Doctors may recommend that a person increases their fluid intake and reduces their sodium intake. While drinking more fluid may or may not improve renal colic or help flush stones out of the urinary tract, it will at least prevent dehydration.
  • Many people also benefit from eating a healthful diet rich in a variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. Doctors may also recommend increasing the intake of citrus fruits in the diet, such as oranges, lemons, or grapefruits.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: August 24, 2018 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019