When to See a Professional and Where to Go

So: You’ve identified the problem as a kidney stone, but you can’t seem to pass it. You’ve been in pain for around an hour, but you’re not sure what to do. Similarly, you may be in a lot of pain, but unsure of the cause. If you have even the slightest idea that you may have a kidney stone, call a doctor. Having the peace of mind that comes with a medical professional say, “Yeah, it’s probably a kidney stone,” will significantly decrease the stress of the experience. Additionally, this is a great opportunity to ask about pain medication, how to look for and collect the stone once it passes, and what you should do if other symptoms occur—fever and chills may be signs of a more serious infection.

 

DON’T GO TO THE ER

If you need immediate help because of kidney stone pain, your fist instinct may be a visit to the emergency room. Though this is an informed impulse, it will cost a lot of money. How much money? Impossible to say with the patchwork system that is healthcare costs. Women’s Health Magazine suggests the cost of an ER visit for a kidney stone will cost anywhere between $29-$29,551.

 

Additionally, a kidney stone is, most often, not a life-threatening condition, which means you’ll likely be there for a long time. When my stone happened, I spent around an hour waiting to be seen, then another couple of hours waiting for a doctor. When in intense pain, those few hours can feel like years.

 

Emergency rooms aren’t great for many kidney stone episodes. If you’ve determined a need for medical attention but don’t want to spend a fortune on a hospital bed, I would recommend finding a nearby urgent care center. I visited this walk-in clinic in Denver. The wait will be significantly shorter than it might in the emergency room, and your bill will be far friendlier. Just make sure they have an X-ray machine, ultrasound, or CT scanner that can help diagnose a kidney stone. Here’s a solid online discussion forum that talks about the general pros and cons of going to the ER for a kidney stone.

 

GO TO THE ER

Now, I did say MANY kidney stones don’t warrant a trip to the ER. There are certain complications with kidney stones—or even a kidney infection masquerading as a kidney stone—that can make emergency care necessary. Ok, great. But how can you tell the difference? Beware of turning any piece of online advice, especially ours, into an affirmative diagnosis of a kidney stone, or any other medical condition. That said, there are handy guidelines for when to visit the ER with kidney-stone-like symptoms including:

 

  • Fever plus kidney pain (could be sign of infection)
  • Pain that isn’t helped by over-the-counter/first-line meds
  • Severe nausea or persistent vomiting (to the point that you can’t drink fluids)
  • A history of major kidney stone episodes

 

Additionally, your doctor may suggest a follow-up appointment after the experience. Your urgent care center can take care of this part of the experience, too; instead of waiting months to get an appointment with a specialist at a large hospital, you can easily book an appointment within a few weeks of the initial passing. Whether you want to see a family medicine physician, a nurse practitioner, or a physician assistant, your urgent care center will have the staff necessary to help.