What causes renal colic?

Renal colic is triggered by the buildup of crystals, or stones, in the kidneys. When these stones interfere with the flow of urine, they can cause the kidneys to swell, producing waves of pain (colic). Kidney stones can form for a variety of reasons.

Causes of kidney stones

The kidney stones that lead to renal colic can be made up of a variety of chemicals and may be caused by the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Cystinuria (inherited disorder characterized by an excess of cystine in the urine)
  • Disease of the small intestine
  • Gout (type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints)
  • Hypercalciuria (excess calcium in the urine)
  • Hyperuricosuria (excess uric acid in the urine)
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
  • Renal (kidney) defects
  • Surgery
  • Urinary tract infection

What are the risk factors for renal colic?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing renal colic. Not all people with risk factors will get renal colic. Risk factors include:

  • Dehydration
  • Diet high in vitamin D
  • Diuretic overuse
  • Family history of kidney stones
  • Intestinal malabsorption (Crohn’s disease, postoperative, etc.)
  • Personal history of kidney stones
  • Pregnancy
  • Recent surgery
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Use of calcium-based antacids
  • Use of certain medications

Reducing your risk of renal colic

You may be able to reduce your risk of developing kidney stones and renal colic by:

  • Avoiding calcium in pill form
  • Avoiding certain foods that are high in oxalate, such as rhubarb and spinach
  • Avoiding excess meat, fish and poultry
  • Drinking enough fluids, especially water, to prevent dehydration


What is renal colic?

Renal colic is a type of pain caused by kidney stones. Kidney stones (urolithiasis) are crystals that form from chemicals in the urine. Usually, a stone develops because too much of a single chemical is present in the urine. A stone may block the flow of urine and can cause pain if it travels down the tubes of the urinary tract.

While kidney stones can happen to anyone, they a... Read more about renal colicintroduction


What are the symptoms of renal colic?

Symptoms of renal colic are related to the formation of crystals in the kidneys. These stones can block urine output, causing pain, swelling and infection.

Common symptoms of renal colic

You may experience renal colic symptoms daily or only occasionally. Any of these symptoms can be severe:


How is renal colic treated?

Treatment for renal colic and kidney stones involves reducing pain and breaking up the stones. In some cases, kidney stones may pass on their own, allowing symptoms of renal colic to resolve. However, it is common for kidney stones to recur. Drinking plenty of fluids may help the stone to pass and may lessen the pain of renal colic.

Medications for renal colic and kidney stone... Read more about renal colictreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System

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