Kidney stones are clusters of minerals that form in or near your kidneys. You usually pass excess minerals through your urine and other waste products.
However, if they’re large enough, kidney stones get stuck in your kidney or in a ureter (the tubes that connect your kidneys to your bladder), causing extreme pain and difficulty with urination, too. Kidney stones send about half a million women and men to the emergency room yearly due to severe pain.
The good news is that up to 80% of smaller stones pass on their own. The bad news is that it can take up to a month.
Alex Lesani, MD, is an expert urologist specializing in diagnosing and treating kidney stones in our Las Vegas, Nevada, office. If you think you have a kidney stone, the first step is making sure through a comprehensive exam that also determines the size and location of the stones.
How large is your stone?
The main determinant for whether a stone can pass on its own is size. If your stones are smaller than four millimeters (mm), about 80% of them will be excreted naturally through your urine within about 30 days.
If your stone is between 4-6 mm, only about 60% can be passed naturally. Their journey can take up to 45 days.
Stones larger than 6 mm only pass naturally in 20% of cases. They can take about a year to pass.
Dr. Lesani recommends shockwave therapy or surgery for large stones in almost all cases. Untreated large stones can damage your kidneys and your ureter and may also cause urinary tract infections and other serious complications.
When stones are small, they’re still painful. If your stone can be passed on its own, Dr. Lesani recommends drinking plenty of water, and switching to a kidney-friendly diet.
He also prescribes a course of antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection. And yes, he recommends painkillers to stay comfortable until your stone is excreted.
Where is your stone located?
Less than half of stones that form in or near the kidneys are excreted naturally. If the stones are closer to your bladder, they can usually pass on their own in about 79% of cases.
When you come in for an evaluation for kidney stone pain or trouble urinating, Dr. Lesani uses imaging studies, urine tests, and blood tests to determine the size, location, and type of stone causing your pain. You can’t figure out on your own how large your stone is or how long it will take to pass.
Based on his findings, Dr. Lesani then recommends a treatment plan. Depending on size, location, and type, he may advise:
- Drinking up to 3 liters of water or healthy liquids per day
- Pain medication to control discomfort
- Antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) to break up stones
- Ureteroscope noninvasive surgery
- Parathyroid gland surgery
After you pass the stone or Dr. Lesani removes it, he analyzes its composition to determine a prevention plan.
What type of stone do you have?
Although size and location are the main determinants of whether you can pass a stone or not, knowing the type of stone is essential for developing a prevention plan. Stone types include:
- Calcium stones
- Uric acid stones
- Struvite stones
- Cystine stones
In addition to watching your diet, based on the type of stone you have, Dr. Lesani recommends staying well-hydrated. Drink even more water than usual when you sweat, work out, or use the sauna. Exercise also helps your entire body function better, including your kidneys.
Don’t cross your fingers and hope your kidney stone passes on its own. Find out how to either help your stone pass painlessly or have it removed before it causes permanent damage by booking an exam and customized treatment today. Call our friendly team at 702-470-2579, or book your appointment online.