Definition: what is renal colic?
Renal colic corresponds to a pain resulting from an obstruction of the urinary tract. It is considered to be one of the sharpest pains that can be felt. It is not a disease, but a symptom which often follows having kidney stones.
Nearly 10% of the population of industrialised countries are affected by renal colic and in half of cases it comes back.
Renal colic needs immediate care, so it is therefore important to act urgently when symptoms start to appear.
Symptoms: how to recognise renal colic
The first symptom of renal colic is a very intense pain, felt in the lumbar region, descending towards the genital organs. It appears suddenly and is not eased by changing position. A period of intense pain such as this can last from 10 minutes to a few hours.
Renal colic is often associated with urinary symptoms (urgent and frequent needs to go to the toilet, burning sensations when urinating, presence of blood in the urine) and digestive symptoms (nausea, vomiting, bloating). In addition, it is generally accompanied by agitation and anxiety.
Causes of renal colic
In the majority of cases, renal colic is due to urinary lithiasis (kidney stones). It is the formation of stones, solid compounds of dissolved minerals of several millimetres, around the kidney and urethra areas. As the kidney continues to produce urine, this causes stagnation and therefore a pressure that is responsible for the pain.
In rarer cases, it is possible that renal colic is due to a gynaecological or kidney tumour, an inflammation in the urethra, a haematoma or a narrowing of the urinary tract following surgery.
Treatment: how to treat renal colic
Because it is extremely painful, renal colic needs immediate care as soon as the first symptoms appear. The priority is first to reduce pain and in order to do this, the doctor prescribes ketoprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or morphine.
Treatment then aims to reduce the stone so that it can pass on its own. This treatment is based on taking anti-inflammatories, painkillers and antispasmodics. It is recommended to not drink more than a litre of water each day so as not to put too much pressure on the kidneys. On the other hand, once the pain passes, good hydration can help the stone to move through the tract.
If the stone doesn’t go under 10 millimetres and its spontaneous expulsion seems improbable, a surgical operation is then necessary to pass it.