What You Need to Know About Passing Kidney Stones

May 06,2019 |

When faced with the daunting prospect of passing a kidney stone fast, it's essential to equip yourself with knowledge and strategies to alleviate the discomfort. Kidney stones are more common than you think. About 1 in 10 Americans experience them at some point throughout their life.1 If you’ve had them before, you understand how painful and debilitating they can be. If you’ve never had kidney stones, it’s important to understand what to expect. Not everyone will develop kidney stones and those that do might not experience any pain or discomfort. Regardless, you will need to pass them. To prepare yourself and get a better understanding of the underlying cause, we’ve put together this article on what you need to know to pass kidney stones.


What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits in varying sizes that are formed from minerals and salts inside of your kidneys.2 They appear when a number of crystal-forming substances build up in your urine that aren’t diluted enough with fluid.2 The more concentrated your urine is, the more likely you’ll create an environment that encourages kidney stones. This is why it’s so important to stay hydrated—so that the minerals that do crystallize don’t stick together and create large stones. As long as kidney stones are caught early and passed, they won’t harm your urinary tract.

There are a number of different types of kidney stones. Different types are formed from different minerals. Knowing which type you have will help you reduce your risk for developing more. Some of the different types of kidney stones include calcium oxalate stones, struvite stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones that develop. They’re formed due to the accumulation of calcium oxalate. Oxalate naturally occurs in many foods and is also created and secreted by your liver.2 Certain foods have higher levels of oxalate than others and there are a number of dietary factors that can lead to calcium stones. Similarly, if you have high doses of vitamin D, intestinal bypass surgery, or certain metabolic disorders, your risk for calcium stones increases.2

Calcium stones can also be formed due to the accumulation of calcium phosphate.

Struvite Stones

These kidney stones are commonly formed in response to a specific infection, most commonly urinary tract infections. Struvite stones are one of the least common types of kidney stones. They’re sporadic in nature and tend to grow fast, so they may require surgical procedures to pass.

Uric Acid Stones

If you’re dehydrated, you’re more at risk for developing uric acid stones. Similarly, if you have a diet that’s high in protein, have gout, lose fluids rapidly, or have certain genetic factors, you’re more at risk for uric acid stones.2

Cystine Stones

The last type of kidney stones is associated with a hereditary disorder. With this disorder, your kidneys secrete excessive amounts of amino acids called cystinuria.2 If you get frequent, recurring kidney stones, they may be cystine stones. Talk to your doctor to learn how you can manage your disorder to reduce the occurrence of cystine stones.


Causes of Kidney Stones

There aren’t clear-cut causes for kidney stones, as they usually form due to several different factors. If you pass a kidney stone, it’s important to keep it so that your urologist can analyze it and find out the type. Doing so will help you reduce our risk for further incidents. When your urologist can pinpoint what type of kidney stones you have, you can address the underlying cause.

Risk Factors of Kidney Stones

There are a number of risk factors that increase your chances of developing kidney stones. If someone in your family has had kidney stones, or you’ve had them in the past, you’re more likely to develop them. If you are dehydrated, eat excessive amounts of protein, salt, or sugar, are obese, or have digestive diseases, you’re more likely to develop kidney stones. Certain medial conditions also increase your risks. Talk to your doctor or urologist to learn more about your risk factors.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

If you’ve had kidney stones in the past, you’ll recognize the symptoms immediately. Unfortunately, you likely won’t experience any symptoms until the stone starts to pass through into your ureter. When that happens, you will experience one or more of the following:2

  • Severe pain below your ribs on your side and back2
  • Pain that radiates to your lower abdomen
  • Pain the comes in waves or fluctuates in intensity2
  • Pain when urinating
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Persistent need to urinate
  • Urinating more often, yet with less liquid being expelled
  • Fever or chills


How to Pass Kidney Stones

If you get a kidney stone, you’ll want to try to encourage your body to pass it naturally. Some people experience a lot of discomfort, while others feel nothing. It’s better to be prepared for some discomfort, as most people do feel pain while passing a kidney stone. If you experience a lot of pain, but still have relatively small kidney stones, your doctor may be able to prescribe something to help. Regardless, there are a few things you can do to help encourage natural passage through your urethra.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial when it comes to passing and preventing kidney stones. When you stay hydrated, you discourage mineral build-up and help keep your urethra clear and free of infection. If you absolutely hate the thought of drinking plain water, try adding some lemon, lime, or other citrus fruits. Citrus has been shown to help break up kidney stones and make passing easier.1

Eat Diuretic Foods

Increasing the number diuretic foods that you eat will keep your body hydrated through food. Consider adding asparagus, beets, celery, cucumbers, watermelon and other diuretic foods to your regular diet.

Try Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is primarily composed of acetic acid, which helps to actively dissolve kidney stones.3 Try adding it to your water, creating dressings, or mixing it into recipes for the best results. 

Mix Lemon Juice and Olive Oil

Equal parts lemon juice and olive oil may help reduce the pain of passing kidney stones while breaking them up.1 The citrus will help break up your kidney stones and the olive oil has been said to act as a lubricant. If you can’t stomach it in a glass, create a salad and load up on equal parts olive oil and lemon juice for a dressing.

When to See a Doctor

Unfortunately, not all kidney stones can be passed naturally. When they’re small, roughly 5mm or less, they don’t pose a problem.1 The stones are small enough to travel down your urethra and be expelled through your body when you urinate. Depending on the size and frequency of your kidney stones, this will cause discomfort. If you notice severe pain and cannot pass it naturally, you need to see a doctor.

When your kidney stones are above 5mm in size, they will not be able to travel down your urethra. You will need to call your urologist for help. There are a few different procedures available to help remove large kidney stones including extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), ureteroscopy with laser lithotripsy, and percutaneous nephrostolithotomy. Before your urologist chooses the best procedure, he or she will need to perform tests to determine the size of your kidney stones.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

ESWL is a procedure that incorporates a number of different shock waves throughout your body.1 The shocks create vibrations throughout your urinary tract, which helps break up the kidney stones into smaller pieces. Once they’ve been broken up, they can be passed naturally.

Ureteroscopy with Laser Lithotripsy

Similar to ESWL, the goal of this procedure is to reduce the size of the kidney stones so they can be passed naturally. Using small, very powerful lasers, kidney stones are targeted and reduced to dust and microscopic passable fragments.1 This helps to reduce pain from subsequent natural passing.

Percutaneous Nephrostolithotomy

If your kidney stones are larger than 5mm, your urologist might recommend percutaneous nephrostolithotomy. It’s a minimally invasive procedure that creates a small opening into the kidney for large stones to be broken down using a stone-pulverizing device.1



Whether you’ve had painful kidney stones in the past or are getting them for the first time, each experience will be different. Some stones can be passed naturally while others might need a procedure. Regardless, once you have kidney stones, you’re more likely to get them again. If you experience pain or discomfort, talk to your urologist about scheduling a consultation. To learn more about urological supplies, urology problems and complications, or educational resource, visit our educational support page or our product selection guide. Byram is proud to be a full-service urological care supplier and we have all of the high quality urological supplies you need. As an added bonus, all of your supplies can be discreetly delivered to your home, any time of the day. If you have any questions or are looking for personalized, confidential services, our teams of knowledgeable urological customer service specialists are here to help.