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.
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.