How Long Does It Take To Pass A Kidney Stone?
The second you realize that you have a kidney stone is the second you wonder, “How long is this process going to take?”
That shooting pain is not something you want to deal with very long. But the length of time between noticing a kidney stone and having it out of your body varies wildly.
I’m going to give you the tools to help you approximate how much time you can expect to pass a kidney stone. We will discuss:
- Exactly where a stone is going when it’s passing
- Why size is one the biggest factors in determining how long the passing will take
- How long kidney stones can take when passing on their own
- Ways to speed up the at-home stone passing process
- How long kidney stone medical intervention treatments (and their recovery time) takes when you are unable to pass a kidney stone on its own
The Journey of a Kidney Stone
To really understand how long it takes a kidney stone to pass, you should understand exactly where it goes throughout the body.
Kidney stones start in the – you guessed it – kidneys.
They have to pass through the long ureter tubes and eventually make their way into the bladder.
Finally, they come out the urethra (much shorter in women than in men), and exit the body.
The hardest part is going from the kidney to the bladder. Since the ureters are about four times smaller than the urethra, there is much more pain. It is normally during this time that you will feel the shooting pain in your sides, lower back, and lower abdomen.
Coming out of the urethra may hurt too, but most of the time it is less severe than the journey through the ureters.
It’s All About Stone Size
When we talk about the time it takes to pass kidney stones, it truly depends upon the size.
A kidney stone can be as small as a grain of sand and as large as a ping-pong ball. When you think about the small size of your urinary tract – you can easily see how a ping-pong could cause problems.
The smaller the stone is, the easier and faster the passing process will be. The larger it is, the more difficult the process will be. Some larger stones will not pass on their own. They will need medical intervention to be removed from your body.
You will probably have no idea how big your stone is on your own.
While pain can be a big indicator (little pain normally means little stone, big pain normally means bigger stone), it is not a foolproof way of figuring out the size of the stone.
The best way to know what size you’re dealing with is to head to your doctor.
This way you know if you should try passing it at home or going straight to medical intervention treatments.
How Long Does A Kidney Stone Take To Pass On Its Own?
The honest answer: it greatly depends.
If your stone is small enough to pass without medical intervention, your doctor will recommend a “watch and wait” method. This means you will see if the journey of the stone can happen on its own.
Some kidney stones are so small you can pass them without ever knowing it happened – no pain, or such slight pain you didn’t know what was happening.
Then there are the painful stones, normally under 6mm, that should take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks to pass on their own.
If it has been longer than a month, it is definitely time to head back into your doctor’s office and see if you need medical intervention. It may be stuck – or it may be bigger than you originally thought.
Also, if you develop any infection symptoms like fever or chills, or if the pain becomes unmanageable, make a doctor’s appointment right away. You may have an infection.
At-Home Ways To Make The Stone Pass More Quickly
Of course, everyone hopes his or her stone will only take a few days, not a few weeks to pass. Luckily, when you are at home passing a stone, there are some things you can do to help speed up the process.
- Drink More Water: The more urine you create, the more chances you have of flushing out the kidney stone. Avoid alcohol and coffee during this time since they will only dehydrate your body. Adding lemon to the water can also help.
- Take Apple Cider Vinegar: Shots of apple cider vinegar may help break up the stone so it can pass more quickly. Be sure to choose the organic kind with the “mother” still in it (the stringy substance in the bottom of the bottle)
- Take Chanca Piedra: This all-natural herb is known for its ability to help break up and dissolve kidney stones. Though you can drink the tea, taking a supplement while your passing a stone is ideal
- Take Celery Seed Extract: Celery has been traditionally used to help kidney stone sufferers. Eating celery is good for you, but the extract of the seed is most potent.
Eu Natural’s Kidney and Gallbladder Cleanse combines Chanca Piedra and celery seed extract (as well as hydrangea extract) into one easy pill to aid your kidney stone passing.
You will also want to take pain relievers to help you through the passing process – especially if it takes more than a few days. Your doctor can prescribe a safe option.
Medical Intervention To Pass or Remove the Kidney Stone
There are many reasons that you will stop trying to pass the kidney stone on your own and head to your doctor for medical intervention.
- Sometimes a stone is simply too big to pass on it’s own. Normally, if a stone is somewhere between 6mm and 7mm (or .23 to .27 inches) in diameter, it will probably need medical intervention in order to remove it. Of course, anything bigger will absolutely need treatment.
- The kidneys may be blocked and/or there are other complications like infection or fever.
- Perhaps it has taken too long (up to 6 weeks with no successful passing is an average cut off).
- If simply dealing with the pain of trying to pass it on your own for weeks (even before the 6 weeks) becomes too much to bare, medical help can swoop in and relieve you of the pain.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common kidney stone medical treatment options. I will also give you an idea of how long the treatment lasts and when you can expect to feel better.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy
This treatment uses shock waves to break up a large stone into smaller pieces so they can be more easily and quickly passed naturally. The whole process should only take an hour or so, and you won’t have to go under general anesthesia.
When you leave, you will still have pieces of the kidney stone in you. These small kidney stone fragments should pass within a few days.
When the stone is stuck up in the ureters (often the most painful and complicated state of the kindey stone’s journey), a doctor can put a small camera up through the urethra and bladder into the ureter.
At this point, your kidney stone may be entirely removed with forceps or another medical tool. Larger stones may be broken up into smaller pieces as this time. In either case, you will normally leave the office on the same day stone free. Expect some burning for a few hours, you should be back to normal.
It is also possible that the stone will be pushed back up in the kidney so they can use the extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy process on it there.
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (Nephrolithotripsy):
Next we have a more invasive process to deal with very large stones (somewhere around an inch in diameter). Percutaneous nephrolithotomy requires an incision in the back. The doctor will then insert a hollow tube into your kidney and remove the stone that way. Since these kidney stones are normally quite large, the stone will often be broken up first.
You will be under general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia. Normally, percutaneous nephrolithotomy requires a 2- to 3-day hospital stay. Do not expect to return to work for a couple of weeks.
Having open surgery to remove a kidney stone is quite rare these days. If it does happen, it is normally because the stone was very large or there is some sort of abnormality in the patient’s anatomy. The surgeon goes through the abdomen or side and removes the stone from there.
Though the stone will be fully removed at this point, there will still be lingering recovery time post-surgery. This open surgery requires a 6- to 9-day hospital stay. Do not expect to return to work for at least a month, possibly 6 weeks.
How Long Will Your Kidney Stone Take To Pass?
If you have the symptoms of a kidney stone, head to your doctor’s office. They will be able to tell you the approximate size of the stone. Then you both can discuss treatment options.
Maybe they are confident it can pass on it’s own. You will go home with pain medication to help you through that process. Though you could get lucky and have the stone pass in a few days, expect at least a couple weeks.
Or perhaps they think medical intervention will be needed from the start. They will choose which type of treatment is best and will schedule your appointment time. Depending on the treatment, you could feel great in a couple days or you may need up to 6 weeks of recovery time.