Renal Colic

Renal Colic: What You Need to Know

Renal colic is a type of abdominal pain commonly caused by obstruction of the ureter from a kidney stone, infection or other medical causes. It is usually blamed on kidney stones and is one of the most common causes of intense pain on one side of the lower back in adults.

Renal colic is a sudden, intense pain that typically starts in the back, side, or lower abdomen, and radiates down the groin. The pain may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, or a burning sensation in the urethra. In general, the pain occurs in waves that last for a few minutes and diminish as it passes.

Causes of Renal Colic

Renal colic is usually caused by an obstruction of the ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The obstruction may be due to a number of different problems, including:

  • Kidney stones: The most common cause of renal colic is the presence of a kidney stone (nephrolithiasis) in the ureter. The stone travels down the ureter and can become trapped, causing intense pain.
  • Infection: Ureteral infection (pyelonephritis) can block the ureter and cause symptoms resembling renal colic.
  • Abnormal anatomy: Congenital or acquired conditions such as a narrowing of the ureter (ureteral stricture) can also cause the obstruction of the urine flow.
  • Tumors: Ureteral or kidney tumors can also cause ureteral obstruction.

Diagnosis of Renal Colic

It is important to distinguish between renal colic and other causes of abdominal pain. To make the diagnosis of renal colic, your doctor may order any of the following tests:

  • Physical examination: Your doctor will feel your abdomen and check for tenderness and any signs of infection.
  • Urinalysis: Your doctor will analyze a sample of your urine for the presence of excess proteins, bacteria, or kidney stones.
  • Imaging tests: Your doctor may order an abdominal X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound to further diagnose the cause of the pain.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests may be used to confirm the diagnosis and to check for any complications.
  • Ureteral dilation: In some cases, your doctor may order a procedure called ureteral dilation to open the ureter and relieve the obstruction.

Treatment of Renal Colic

The main treatment for renal colic is to remove the obstruction. Depending on the cause, your doctor may recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Ureteral stent placement: A stent is a flexible tube that can be inserted into the bladder to open the ureter and help drain the urine.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the obstruction.
  • Medication: Pain medications may be prescribed to help relieve the pain associated with renal colic.
  • Fluid hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids can help to flush the kidney stones and may help to ease the symptoms.

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of the signs and symptoms of renal colic. Treatment is important to relieve the pain and prevent further complications.