What is Renal Colic

by Sam Malone

Renal colic is pain caused by the presence of kidney stones. The word renal usually denotes a problem with the kidneys and renal pain implies pain in the kidneys. The common cause of pain in the kidneys is due to kidney stones.

Kidney stones, as the name suggests, are hard deposits of minerals. When a mineral in the urine gets concentrated, it forms deposits. The deposits actually make it hard to pass urine, causing the kidneys to swell and cause pain. The pain is called colicky pain because the pain tends to come in waves, sometimes acute and some dull. Kidney stones are usually calcium or uric acid deposits. Kidney stones, also known as renal lithiasis, occur when there are mineral deposits that form in the kidneys. This condition is also called nephrolithiasis.  These stones can form and lodge themselves anywhere in the urinary tract. When these deposits get stuck in the urinary tract, it’s known as urolithiasis. If the stones are located in the uterus, the condition is termed as uterolithiasis.

Causes:
The main causes for kidney stone include
  • Infections in the small intestine
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Gout
  • Chemotherapy
  • Excess calcium in the urine or hypercalciuria
  • Excess uric acid in the urine or hyperuricosuria
  • Kidney defects
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
Renal colic can occur anywhere in the abdomen and the severity depends on the size of the kidney stones. There are many risk factors too. Certain behaviours or conditions make you prone to kidney stones, and therefore they also put you at an increased risk of renal colic. Dehydration, coupled with any of the following conditions is a major cause for the formation of kidney stones:
  • A diet high in vitamin D, especially in the form of supplements can cause kidney stones.
  • Family or a personal history of kidney stones
  • Recent surgery
  • A recurring UTI
  • The regular use of calcium-based antacids or certain medications
Symptoms: The symptoms are usually quite painful and demand immediate attention. Along with abdominal pain, which could manifest in the back or the groin as well, you can also have
  • Blood in the urine or hematuria
  • Fever, especially with chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
Severe vomiting, very high fever or continuous pain might mean that you need to immediately seek medical care. If you have had kidney stones earlier and notice any of these symptoms, you should not wait for your symptoms to get worse but instead contact your doctor immediately.
The diagnosis of kidney stones is done with the help of a CT scan. Usually the difficulty to urinate is also a sign of kidney stones.

Treatment: The treatment for renal colic and kidney stones is multi-pronged. Treatment is given for pain management and medications for dissolving the stones. If the stones do not pass through on their own, lithotripsy or surgical intervention might be necessary.
The type and dosage of recommended medications will depend on the severity of your symptoms. The prescribed medications could include antibiotics, diuretics, cystine control medications, potassium citrate or sodium bicarbonate to regulate the acid levels in the urine and alpha blockers to help the stones to pass.

There are times when the kidney stones pass out without medication. In such cases, the renal colic stops as these stones are passed out. Drinking plenty of water or fluids might also help. Heating pads might act as a good remedy for kidney pain. If not treated in time, renal colic can lead to serious complications like kidney damage, loss of kidney function, recurrence of stones and blockage of the urinary tract.

References:
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001493/
  2. http://www.netwellness.uc.edu/healthtopics/kidney/kidneystones.cfm

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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