Can a Kidney Stone Go Away on its Own?
February 01, 2023
As uncomfortable as they are, kidney stones are a common condition. One out of every 11 individuals in the U.S. will experience kidney stones at some point during their life.
The good news is, you might not need surgery or a procedure to treat a kidney stone.
“Kidney stones—a hard piece of material formed through mineral build-up in your kidneys—can sometimes pass on their own,” says Neil Sherman, M.D., urologist at JFK University Medical Center, Old Bridge Medical Center and Raritan Bay Medical Center. “Some smaller kidney stones can pass through the urinary tract with minimal difficulty.”
When to Seek Treatment for a Kidney Stone
Larger kidney stones—from the size of a pencil eraser to more than an inch wide—can get stuck in the urinary tract. When this happens , the flow of urine is blocked. This leads to swelling of the blocked kidney, and it may cause a lot of pain and even lead to infection and eventually sepsis. These stones may need to be removed by a urologist.
If a kidney stone can’t pass on its own, you may need a procedure to break up the stone and remove it. Two common kidney stone procedures include external shock wave therapy, inserting a scope into the urinary tract (ureteroscopy with lithotripsy) and breaking the stone with a laser or, when very large, through the back directly into the kidney (percutaneous surgery). "We provide the full range of urologic stone procedures, from extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy to complex percutaneous nephrolithotomy,” says Emad Rizkala, M.D., urologist at Bayshore Medical Center.
Seek medical help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms in association with severe back pain:
- Pain or difficulty urinating
- Blood or discoloration in your urine
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
The right treatment method depends on the type, size and location of the kidney stone. Blood or urine tests, X-rays and CT scans can help your doctor determine the size and location of your stone, its chemical makeup and how best to treat it.
How to Prevent Kidney Stones
Like with many conditions, prevention is sometimes the best treatment.
“The number one cause of kidney stones is dehydration,” says Michael Degen, M.D., director of stone surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center. “To prevent most kidney stones, drinking plenty of fluids is enough to flush away minerals that build up and form stones.”
Most adults should drink enough fluid so that they void 2 ½–3 liters per day. This may require a higher fluid intake in the summer months, in warmer climates or with higher levels of activity when there’s a greater risk of dehydration. You’re more likely to experience kidney stones if you have high levels of some minerals in your body.
“Especially if you’ve experienced kidney stones before, it’s important to maintain these healthy habits to prevent future occurrences,” says Dr. Rizkala.
Expanding Kidney Care for Kids
There is a growing epidemic of kidney stones in children, especially teens. “Calcium kidney stones, which are common in adults, appear to be the most common in children,” says Dr. Degen. “This seems to go hand in hand with metabolic syndrome [a group of conditions that together increase the risk of other serious health problems].”
Partially in response to the growing numbers of children with kidney stones, Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health has launched a second pediatric nephrology and urology clinic to care for children diagnosed with kidney conditions including kidney stones. The new Pediatric Nephrology and Urology Clinic at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital joins the existing clinic at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Neil Sherman, M.D., Emad Rizkala, M.D., and Michael Degen, M.D. To make an appointment with a urologist near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about pediatric nephrology services
- Learn more about urology services for adults
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.