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Will a Kidney Stone Resolve On Its Own?

Oct 01, 2023
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Kidney stones are notoriously painful, and if you have one, you likely want to know if it’ll resolve on its own. Continue reading to find out if kidney stones go away on their own, and if not, what we can do to help.

If you're dealing with the discomfort and pain of a kidney stone, you might be wondering whether your body can take care of it on its own. Kidney stones can be incredibly painful  and disruptive to your daily life, but can they resolve without medical intervention? 

Below, our board-certified urologists at Bellingham Urology Group in Bellingham and Mount Vernon, Washington, explore this question in greater detail.

Understanding kidney stones

Kidney stones are solid, crystalline structures that form in your kidneys when there is an excessive concentration of certain substances in your urine. Most stones are made of calcium oxalate (CaOx) and calcium phosphate. As these substances accumulate and combine, they can create small, hard deposits that range in size from a grain of sand to a pea.

Although relatively small, kidney stones are notorious for causing great pain — as intense as labor pains, some say. The pain associated with kidney stones typically arises when these stones move from the kidneys into your urinary tract. This journey can be excruciating, causing intense pain in your lower back, abdomen, and groin. The level of discomfort varies from person to person, but it's safe to say that kidney stone pain is something you'd rather not experience.

Can kidney stones pass on their own?

Now, let's address the main question: Can kidney stones pass on their own? The answer is yes, but whether they do depends on several factors, including the size of the stone, its location, and your overall health.

Size matters

Smaller kidney stones (those less than 4 mm, or about one-tenth of an inch) have a better chance of passing spontaneously. Your urinary system is designed to handle particles of this size, and they can often be excreted with minimal discomfort within one to two weeks. 

Location, location, location

The stone's location within your urinary tract also plays a role. Stones located closer to the bladder are more likely to pass on their own. Those stuck in the kidney or higher up in the ureter may require more intervention.

Your hydration levels make an impact 

Your overall health and hydration levels are critical factors. Staying well-hydrated can help flush out smaller stones. On the flip side, dehydration can make the process more painful and more difficult. 

Underlying health conditions 

Certain medical conditions or anatomical abnormalities (such as having an enlarged prostate) may hinder stone passage and necessitate medical assistance.

When to seek medical help

Think you’re dealing with a kidney stone? While smaller kidney stones can often pass without medical intervention, it’s still important to consult with Curran Emeruwa, MD, John Pettit, MD, Mackenzie Epler, PA-C, or Eleni Zobolas, ARNP. Our team can confirm that your pain is related to a kidney stone and can recommend the right treatments (and lifestyle modifications) for you.

In general, seek medical help for kidney stones if:

  • You experience severe pain that doesn't subside
  • You notice blood in your urine
  • You have a fever or signs of infection
  • You have a history of kidney problems or have only one kidney
  • You already sought care, but the stone didn’t pass within a reasonable amount of time (usually a few weeks)

If your kidney stone doesn’t pass on its own, medical treatment can help remove the stone or break it up so it can pass. Procedures such as shockwave lithotripsy (using shock waves to break the stone), medical dissolution, or medical expulsive therapy can help. In some cases, you may also benefit from robotic/laparoscopic kidney stone surgery.

Get help for your kidney stones

To return to our initial question, some kidney stones can pass on their own, but it's not always guaranteed. The outcome depends on the size, location, and individual factors. 

Kidney stones can be painful, but with the right care, you can find relief and prevent unwanted complications. If you suspect you have a kidney stone or are experiencing symptoms, call or message our location closest to you for a proper diagnosis and guidance on the most suitable treatment options.