5 Things To Know About Passing Kidney Stones

passing kidney stones

Unfortunately, one in 10 Americans will experience the unpleasant little kidney formations called kidney stones at some point in their lifetime. 

While not everyone will get kidney stones, it’s important for you to not only understand why you’re experiencing kidney stones, but also what to do when you have one. Passing kidney stones is not always easy, and if you’ve never had a kidney stone before you may not know what to expect. 

In this blog, we cover five things you should know about passing kidney stones. While we hope you are able to pass kidney stones naturally and with little discomfort, we know that it doesn’t always work out that way. This blog will help prepare you for the potential outcomes during and after passing kidney stones so you know exactly what to expect. 

1. Not All Kidney Stones Can Be Passed Naturally

If your kidney stones are relatively small, meaning less than 5mm, they should be able to exit your body naturally. This means that the tiny stones will travel down your urethra and exit the body along with your urine. 

However, if your kidney stones are larger than 5mm, chances are you’ll need assistance getting them out. If this is the case, your urologist may recommend one of these three procedure types

  1. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL). This surgery involves using shock waves through your body to break up kidney stones so that they can be passed naturally. 
  2. Ureteroscopy With Laser Lithotripsy. This procedure uses powerful miniature lasers to break up kidney stones into dust and tiny passable fragments.
  3. Percutaneous Nephrostolithotomy. This is a treatment option for very large stones. This minimally invasive procedure utilizes a puncture directly into the kidney allowing placement of a stone-pulverizing device to remove very large stone burdens.

If you have a kidney stone, your doctor will need to determine the size of it in order to recommend which treatment is best for you.

2. There Are Multiple Ways To Help Pass Kidney Stones

While there isn’t a medication that can magically make the kidney stone come out of your body, your doctor may prescribe an alpha blocker to help with the pain. Alpha blockers help relax your urinary tract muscles and allow you to pass the stone without too much pain. 

However, there are other natural remedies you can try while attempting to pass a kidney stone. Try to:

  1. Drink lots of water. Water infused with citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange can help break up the stones to make passing them easier. This is easy to do at home, too. Simply cut up slices of your preferred fruit and place them in water.
  2. Drink equal parts lemon juice and olive oil. This may help ease the pain associated with passing kidney stones as well as help break them up.
  3. Drink apple cider vinegar. Take only a few ounces at a time mixed with water. This is also a great prevention practice!
  4. Eat diuretic foods. Watermelon, celery, and cucumber may help you pass kidney stones. 

3. Passing Kidney Stones Will Probably Hurt

Passing kidney stones is rumored to be very painful, and each person will have a different experience. Being prepared for the pain and talking with your doctor about it can help to ease your fears. Plus, your doctor may be able to prescribe you a medication such as alpha blockers that can help ease kidney stone pain. 

Depending on the size of your kidney stones, some may be more painful to pass than others. Even if your kidney stone is smaller than 5mm and is able to be passed naturally, it will likely cause discomfort in your back, sides and urinary tract. If pain becomes severe, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor. 

4. Hydration is Key—Both for Passing and Prevention

Staying hydrated while passing kidney stones is crucial. Kidney stones need to be flushed out of the body, and drinking lots of fluids will help move them along. Water is best (or water with citrus fruits as mentioned above), and there are a few liquids that should be avoided while passing a kidney stone.

You should do your best to eliminate alcohol, coffee, tea and soda during this time. Do your best to drink as much water as possible. Dehydrating fluids like alcohol and coffee will not help you pass your kidney stones and may make the pain worse. 

Curious about the role alcohol plays in kidney stone prevention? Read our blog

Can Wine Prevent Kidney Stones?

Hydration is also vital for preventing kidney stones. Kidney stones form when there’s an excess of minerals in your kidneys but not enough fluids to dilute them. Staying hydrated is crucial to preventing kidney stone formation as well as passing kidney stones if you have them.

5. Passing Kidney Stones May Take A While

The length of time it takes to pass a kidney stone highly depends on the size and location of the kidney stone.

If the kidney stone is small, it will likely be able to pass on its own. However, it’s difficult to estimate how long it will take to exit the body. Additionally, stones that are positioned in the end of the ureter closest to the bladder (rather than the end near the kidney), are more likely to pass on their own and more quickly. Larger stones, or stones that are located in a difficult place, are unlikely to pass on their own and may require medical assistance. 

Can’t Pass Your Kidney Stone On Your Own? We Can Help

If you’ve had kidney stones in the past, then you know two kidney stone experiences are never the same. You may be able to pass one naturally, and then require lithotripsy for the next. Plus, once you’ve had one kidney stone, your chances of having another increase. 

Whether you’ve had a kidney stone before or not, attempting to pass them on your own isn’t always easy. If you are experiencing the pain associated with passing kidney stones, or are unable to pass your kidney stone on your own, reach out to us. 

Our team of board-certified urologists will be able to determine the size of your kidney stone and next steps for treatment. Plus, we can work with you to mitigate discomfort and make passing kidney stones as painless as possible. 

For more advice surrounding your uterine health, download our free Nutrition & Lifestyle Guide. This guide will help you learn about and choose healthy options that can improve your general and urological health (including kidney stones!). Click the button below to access your guide.

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Content was originally published on October 30, 2015. Content was refreshed on August 29, 2019.