When you’re passing a kidney stone, the only thing you want to know is how long the pain will last. Although it’s impossible to precisely predict how long it will take, urologists have excellent estimates for the average time to pass a kidney stone.
Learning those timelines can be critical because kidney stones aren’t just painful, they’re potentially dangerous. Most stones will pass on their own, but in the interests of avoiding complications, you should know when it’s time to stop waiting and call your doctor.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are hardened minerals formed within the urinary tract or kidneys. Once formed, they have to complete a journey from the kidneys to the bladder. That passage requires the stone to move through particularly small ureter tubes, which causes shooting pains and cramping. Kidney stones are the most common cause of blood in urine, and nearly every substantially sized stone will cause severe pain in the groin, abdomen, or back.
Average Times to Pass
A stone’s ability to pass through your body can be affected by prostate enlargement, the size of the stone that’s being passed, and the size of the person who’s passing it. According to the American Urological Association, the full journey of one small kidney stone takes between 1 and 2 weeks. If a stone makes it to the urinary tract, it will most likely pass within 2 days. And nearly any stone that will pass naturally will have done so within 40 days.
When to Call Your Doctor
How often is medical intervention necessary? In 4 out of 5 cases, relatively small 4mm stones are passed without aid. Conversely, slightly larger 5mm stones require treatment in 4 out of 5 cases. And without aid, larger 10mm stones are unlikely to pass at all. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find out the precise diameter of your kidney stones without being exposed to high doses of radiation. That’s why the quickest way to pass a kidney stone is to drink plenty of water and wait.
In many cases, an ultrasound shockwave treatment can be used to break a stone into smaller pieces, allowing them to pass. It’s only necessary to turn to surgery when a kidney stone is particularly large, caused by an infection, is causing severe bleeding, or is completely blocking urine from escaping the kidney.
Avoiding Kidney Stones
Anyone can develop a kidney stone, and there are many risk factors you can do nothing about. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women. Having a family history of kidney stones can contribute, and kidney stones are far more common among Caucasians and Asians. But there are many risk factors you do have the power to change.
Diets containing excess sugar, sodium, and animal protein all contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Not drinking enough water can reduce urine volume, setting the stage for the creation of kidney stones. And chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease can all contribute to your risk. If you’ve endured the pain of a kidney stone once before and don’t want to do it again, making small lifestyle changes can go a long way towards reducing your risk.