Kidney stone or ureteral stone?
February 14, 2014 1:59 AM   Subscribe

I know you aren't my doctor. I'm not sure what the problem is. Potentially NSFW.

The reason I'm asking here is because I'm unemployed and don't have health insurance. I'm kind of freaking out now, because lately, I have been having a hard time going pee - the urine flows more slowly/less than normal (not usually noticeable, but there is a subtle difference), and I keep having this 'tingling' sensation, such as the need to go urine, but I can't (as in, false alarms). I usually am able to go twice, three times a day; now it's down to one or two, depending. It's not painful or an emergency situation, but it's annoying, and I'm not sure what's happening.

I did some research online and it looks like what I'm experiencing matches closely with that of kidney stones/ureteral stones, but I don't experience any of the other symptoms (blood in my urine, dizziness, nauseous feelings, etc). I'm perfectly fine other than not being able to go pee 'normally' and keep feeling that annoying feeling of needing to go pee, but not actually being able to.

To cut a potential suggestion to the chase - this has nothing to do with my anxiety to go #2 (asked in a previous few questions) - I have been going #2 normally every day so far, without any problems at all - it's only #1 that is an issue, and it's absolutely not parcopresis and/or anxiety-related.

I'm in kind of a weird situation - I'm under California and its disability benefit system (SSI) but not receiving SSI income right now, but seemingly under MediAid (not sure), but am currently in DC. I'm not sure if California's MediAid would cover me at the hospitals in DC, but I'm trying not to freak out - I'm hoping this is just a weird fluke and that there may be some kind of home remedy or something to clear this up, especially as I'm not experiencing any symptoms. And, I know it's probably glaringly obvious from my handle, but I'm a male.

I understand you are NOT my doctor, not my medical provider, etc - this is merely advice I'm seeking, any possible suggestions, because I really cannot afford medical bills - especially being unemployed and uninsured. Any advice that is given will not be treated as legit/claimable medical advice. Thanks.
posted by dubious_dude to Health & Fitness (29 answers total)
If you're under Medi-cal, you are covered out of state. Just go to an urgent care clinic, it doesn't cost that much money for them to tell you what's wrong with you. Nobody here is going to be able to diagnose you. Also, aren't you in college? Is there a clinic or a nurse there that can help you?
posted by empath at 2:50 AM on February 14, 2014

Nope, graduated.

I did a bit more research, and it seems like it also may be Urinary Tract Infection. I realize nobody here can diagnose me, and I'm not asking for a diagnosis - just suggestions from others who may have experienced the same thing as I did.
posted by dubious_dude at 2:57 AM on February 14, 2014

If it's either kidney stones or a urinary tract infection, you have to go to a doctor either way.
posted by empath at 3:07 AM on February 14, 2014

Apologies in advance if you're thinking that you're getting advice that you're not asking for, but you need to understand that this is 100% a doctor thing.

Nobody here can help fix this. This is not a weird fluke. This may not be OMG GO TO A DOCTOR NOW BECAUSE YOU COULD DIE WITHIN 24 HOURS, but this definitely falls into the, "Don't go to AskMe to fix this" category.

The best advice you're going to get here is going to tell you to go to a doctor. Today. You'll feel better, either knowing it's nothing or getting treated for whatever it is.

But from your description, it's not nothing. And it needs treatment. From a doctor.
posted by kinetic at 3:13 AM on February 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

Kinetic is dead on. You must see a doctor.

Your symptoms are more than a "kidney stone". The decreased flow, amount, and frequency are of great concern. There are several reasons you could be having those symptoms. All of them requiring MEDICAL INTERVENTION.

The renal system is something not to be messed around with. The hell with medical bills. They aren't student loans that you sell your soul and firstborn for.

Get to an ER now.
posted by moonlily at 3:36 AM on February 14, 2014

You do not need to go to the ER for decreased urine flow and pain on urination. You do however need to go to a walk in clinic, urgent care clinic, or GP.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:38 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am not a doctor. I am not your doctor. All I can say is this. If you have a stone that is trying to work through your ureter, and it is big enough to block urine flow, then you would probably be experiencing intense pain. And by intense, I mean like mind-blowing call the ambulance now pain. That was my experience anyway. So, the point is, what you are experiencing MAY having nothing at all to do with your kidneys. For example, there could also be something happening to your prostate, or lots of other things. We can't diagnose you. We can't tell you "try this herb, sit in a warm bath, and you should be fine". That isn't going to happen. YOU NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR. Call one this morning.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:56 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might want to start with making the phone calls to figure out what your coverage is. Then go to an urgent care clinic.
posted by bleep at 4:31 AM on February 14, 2014

I really cannot afford medical bills - especially being unemployed and uninsured.

I'm sympathetic. I am. Being broke sucks. Having said that, it's sort of odd to frame medical bills as something you can either afford or not. It's common, sure, but odd. You have one body and if you can't afford its medical bills, well, then all the other bills become moot. It might make more sense for you to reframe your problem. "Due to unexpected medical bills, I'm having trouble buying food and/or paying rent. I live in D.C. Can anybody suggest creative solutions?"

I hope you get the medical treatment you need. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 4:41 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

See the doctor, but while you're waiting to see one, pick up some cranberry capsules at the pharmacy and go to town on them with lots and lots of water. This can help to flush out a urinary tract infection - works for me at least - I take a couple of pills at a time frequently throughout the day. Capsules are my preference for optimum effect.
I say to do this NOT in lieu of seeing a doctor, just something that can't hurt and might help in the meantime if it is a urinary tract infection. Mine start with the same symptoms you are experiencing, and I've had kidney stones and gallstones and they are nowhere nohow the same. Paralyzing pain would be the keywords for a stone.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:45 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is a reason I am suggesting this, but ultimately I am saying something similar (ie, see a medical professional vs trying a home remedy).

One possibility is an STD (chlamydia/gonorrhea), I am saying this from the perspective of someone who used to work in a lab to assess samples, blah blah. We used to listen to various case studies and some people would present with your symptoms (low urine flow). However, NO ONE, not even a doctor, can ultimately diagnose without the final findings from the lab analysis, which you would need through a lab/medical professionals. Just saying it as one of 10 possibilities and it would be easy to treat.

To check this out,you could go to Planned Parenthood. Tell them your symptoms. It is relatively free/cheap to get treatment and they accept Medicaid according to their webpage. What about making an appointment and walking in today as a first step? If it is this, they would take a culture swab/urine sample and if positive, give you antibiotics a week or so later. Take the first step. They may have access and be able to point to other resources for you, too, if it requires further evaluation.
posted by Wolfster at 6:09 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best advice is already here but I wanted to add to the thread that it might also be a prostate issue. Prostatitis or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia can manifest as a difficulty with urination (also ejactulation) because the prostate surrounds the urethra and could be squeezing against the tube that liquid is trying to get out of.

Neither are life threatening but all are worth getting checked out.
posted by softlord at 7:09 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not a doctor, but it sounds like a UTI. (urinary tract infection, bladder infection) Though it could be something else.

This is a doctor thing. If it is a UTI, you need antibiotics to treat it. It won't go away on its own. If it is a UTI and you don't treat it, you're at risk for a kidney infection. And those are excruciatingly painful and require an even longer and larger dose of antibiotics to clear out and can take about 2 or more weeks to treat. (Not to mention again, the excruciating pain.)

Don't play around with bladder symptoms. Call different urgent cares and see what they offer for low income - such as payment plans. The antibiotics used to treat UTIs are cheap. (With my insurance they are literally $0.75 for 3 days, without is probably a few dollars.)

Also, Planned Parenthood often treats UTIs. You could see them and if they think it's something more they can refer you out. Planned Parenthood tends to work more with low-income situations.

Last UTI I had I went to the doctor right away. He said "I'm so glad you came in! Some people wait and then wonder why they have a kidney infection!" I've also had chronic UTIs in the past and they aren't always painful.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:22 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Crystalline is spot on; try PP.
posted by samthemander at 8:17 AM on February 14, 2014

There are a number of walk-in clinics here in the DC area. I would suggest going to one of these.

As for a kidney stone, I've had a number of them and only one has caused me great pain. In fact, I didn't know I even had a stone until I heard it plop out while peeing. So, if the stone is small enough, you might not feel a lot of pain. But if it's a big stone, let me repeat what my sister said when she had a large kidney stone when she was 8 months pregnant: "I'd have a baby any day over this!"
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2014

Go to a doctor.

Even if it is "just" a UTI, and never becomes a kidney infection, let me tell you - UTIs can become extraordinarily painful really quickly. Extraordinarily.

If it is anything other than a UTI, the it could be and STD, or it might be a stone, which could also become extraordinarily painful.

None of these things can be treated by yourself. And some are extraordinarily painful. So: doctor.
posted by sock puppet of mystery! at 10:26 AM on February 14, 2014

Nthing everyone above who is suggesting that you see a doctor. I've had a kidney infection and it was nothing to mess around with. Also, cranberry supplements work well for some people, but they aggravate bladder problems for me, and a doctor once told me that she managed to give herself a kidney stone from taking massive doses of cranberry to ward off a UTI.
posted by corey flood at 11:19 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can give you a list of causes as long as your arm for your symptoms. None of them are treatable at home, and one or two are quite dangerous if left untreated. I am concerned that you are passing urine less frequently than usual - with an uncomplicated UTI you would usually pass small amounts of urine more frequently. You need to be examined to rule out more serious causes for your symptoms.

Just go to a doctor. GP/walk in is fine.
posted by tinkletown at 11:34 AM on February 14, 2014

Here, Anacostia Health Care Center in DC offers free care or sliding scales. Call them and see what they suggest.
posted by Ouisch at 11:40 AM on February 14, 2014

I'll try Anacostia's Health Care Center, and also try a CVS Minute Clinic and see what they can do, as well.

I tried verifying my Mediacid information. No go, got nowhere with them, I have to have an actual ID mailed to me, which obviously won't do for this time-sensitive situation.

Thanks, all!
posted by dubious_dude at 11:59 AM on February 14, 2014

IANYD. Just wanted to second something mentioned above for truth: kidney stones hurt. A lot. Like, worse than childbirth, for many people who experience them. So I'm going to agree with Seymour Zamboni that there are a number of other things it could be, but it's quite unlikely to be a kidney stone.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:33 PM on February 14, 2014

Update: after waiting for about an hour at the CVS Minute Clinic, I was told that they do not have the technology to test for male UTI's, only female UTI's. Their website gave me the impression they would be able to treat the UTI/test for it, but did not mention it was only for women. The doctor suggested that I try a local urgent care center, so I'm looking into that.

I did do a bit more research and it seems California's Medi-cal will cover emergencies out of state, but I'm not sure if urgent care clinic care would be covered, and I'm not sure if they would qualify UTI at an emergency room as an emergency.

The truth is, right now I feel utterly lost in this. I agree it's more important to get health care than worry about money, but I already have student loans to pay back, and being unemployed isn't easy at all. I am trying to look out for the best compromise, especially as this isn't a true emergency - it IS important to address, for sure.

Right now, my options would be to:

-Fly to California and get 100% free coverage at a hospital, get the needed antibiotics, then fly back to DC, look into transferring my California benefits to DC benefits. Negative: expensive to fly.

-Go to a local urgent care clinic, maybe pay $150-200 for the test/treatment, and hopefully that'll be the end of it. Negative: experience varies

-Go to the emergency room and hope Medi-Cal will cover it despite it being out of state, let alone 3,000 miles away, it not being an accident or dire illness, and be over with it. Negative: risk of Medi-Cal not paying, being stuck with hospital bills for a long time (want to be debt free)

-Drink cranberry juice, water with baking soda, and hope that'll be the end of it. Negative: not the best way to go about; I don't want to ignore this. Not worth the potential savings.

Not sure what the best venue is. If any of you still are reading this, what do you think? (it's my decision, you're not my doctor, yada yada)
posted by dubious_dude at 7:37 PM on February 14, 2014

Go to the ER. You'll get a thorough examination and all tests that need to be done, but no more, and when you leave you'll have the answer and meds if you need them, which obviously you do. They know what they're doing and they will treat you regardless of your employment status.

As for the charge, talk to them at the hospital. They're used to people who are uninsured but needing medical help and they'll have payment arrangements that you can make that won't destroy you.

Just do it. Trust me, this will get worse before it gets better, cranberries or no.
posted by aryma at 9:34 PM on February 14, 2014

Threadsitting a bit, aryma, but do you have any idea if Medi-Cal will cover this (a visit to the ER, for an emergency, but not-life-threatening purpose)? I mean, would the hospital be able to determine that? I'm still unclear on Medi-Cal. I can't call them until Tuesday (due to President's Day this Monday), and most urgent care places in DC are closed as well on weekends. Definitely bad timing for sure, but I want to get this looked at ASAP while having the peace of mind knowing I'll either be covered or not, so I can feel more prepared for all possible outcomes.

disclaimer: I don't expect you to have the answer. Doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:44 PM on February 14, 2014

If you live in DC, why can't you apply for Medicaid there? Medicaid will apply retroactively for up to three months if you would have been eligible in those months- e.g., if you go to the ER tomorrow, get treated, and apply for Medicaid either there at the hospital or after a few days, it would be covered even though you weren't technically enrolled when you received treatment.
posted by MadamM at 11:04 PM on February 14, 2014

It looks like this is the health insurance marketplace for DC. It doesn't appear to require any proof of residency beyond an address, and I don't believe there's any requirement to "transfer" your benefits from California.
posted by MadamM at 11:11 PM on February 14, 2014

You can go to Planned Parenthood in DC. This one is sliding-scale. This one is not. Both offer urinary tract infection testing and treatment as part of their Male Clinic Services. For sliding scale, it's $0 - $150; for fee pay services, it's $95-150. Call and make an appointment. You have MeMail.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:50 AM on February 15, 2014

Update to any of you following this thread still:

I went to an urgent care clinic today. They diagnosed my pee; nothing at all, results were normal. The doctor was a bit perplexed, and said she would be sending my pee to a lab for more extensive diagnosis, but in the meantime, issued me some antibiotics "in case of an infection." The total cost came to ~$250, including antibiotics, which isn't bad, and I was also advised that Medicaid was required to reimburse me, so I plan to either see if California would be willing to reimburse this out-of-state cost, or to do some research on DC Medicaid, then see if they could retroactively refund me the costs. Even if neither agency will work with me, at least I'm only out of $250ish, worth it for the peace of mind. In the meantime, I'll stick with cranberry juice and antibiotics to hopefully stop the tingling sensation and return my body back to normal.

Thanks all!
posted by dubious_dude at 3:32 PM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm glad you saw a healthcare practitioner, and leaving the whole antibiotics-just-in-case thing to one side, glad you are getting treated. If it isn't resolved, keep PlannedParenthood in mind -- they tend to be less perplexed by genital-related healthcare than non-specialist practitioners. I hope you feel better soon!
posted by DarlingBri at 3:56 PM on February 15, 2014

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