Kidney stone: how long does it take to pass?

Written by: Dr David Game
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Kidney stones are not uncommon and anyone can get them. Sometimes the stones are very small and can move through your urinary tract without any symptoms. If you have a larger kidney stone, however, you may notice blood in your urine, pain when urinating and sharp pain in your lower abdomen and back.

Here, one of our expert nephrologists Dr David Game explains how long kidneys stones can take to pass and how visiting a specialist can help you to prevent any recurrent stones. 

A woman is lying face down on a bed with her hair falling across her face.

How do kidney stones form?

Kidney stones form when the chemicals that make the stone are at a high concentration in the urine. Starting small, stones can get bigger and bigger as more of the chemicals combine as a solid. Small stones can pass out in the urine with very few symptoms, but if bigger can cause problems like getting stuck in the tube draining the kidneys to the bladder (ureteric stone).

How long does it take to pass?

Stones can sometimes stay in the kidneys for life. Having entered the ureter, stones can be passed quickly – within a minute or two or can get held up in the ureter for some weeks.

Is there a way to speed up the process?

Drinking lots of water to encourage the stone to flush out and medication such as Tamsulosin which relax the urinary system can help.

When is surgery necessary?

Surgery is performed by a urologist (not me, I’m a nephrologist). Reasons for surgery include total blockage of the ureter, ongoing pain, infection, imminent travel, or a stone that is so big that it unlikely to pass (e.g. >10mm).

Recurrent stones are sometimes removed earlier to prevent problems in the future. People with recurrent stones are likely to benefit from seeing a nephrologist with an interest in stones (like me) to optimise stone prevention.

Dr Game specialises in treating kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure and dialysis. You can book an appointment with Dr Game via his Top Doctor's profile here

By Dr David Game

Dr David Game is a leading consultant nephrologist based in London who specialises in transplantation, dialysis and chronic disease of the kidney. He is additionally expert in hypertension as well as acute kidney injuries and kidney stones.

Dr Game studied for a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology at the University of Cambridge before qualifying in medicine at the University of Oxford in 1996. He was later awarded the prestigious Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) fellowship and additionally completed a PhD in transplant immunology at Imperial College London. Following further specialist training on the esteemed North Thames rotation, he was appointed as a consultant at Guy's Hospital in 2009, where he continues to see private patients. He additionally sees private patients at HCA at the Shard and the Lister Hospital in central London.

Dr Game is a leading name in medical education and has been an honorary senior lecturer at King’s College London since 2015. Prior to this, he was a clinical lecturer at Imperial College London, based at the Hammersmith Hospital for several years and was also voted Guy's Teacher of the Year by the establishment’s junior doctor trainees. Additional to his teaching roles, Dr Game continues to be an active researcher in transplant immunology. He was the principal investigator in a highly anticipated €14 million clinical trial of cell therapy for transplant tolerance which was funded by the EU.

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