Urology of Greater Atlanta

Stages of Passing a Kidney Stone

Urology Of Greater Atlanta

The pain associated with passing a kidney stone may feel unbearable. If you are currently in the process of passing kidney stones, knowing the different stages of passing a kidney stone and what to expect can help.

For many years our team of board-certified urologists has helped many find relief. We understand that when you are in pain, the last thing you want to do is drive far to receive adequate medical care. That is why we have offices conveniently located throughout Georgia. Schedule an appointment at Urology of Greater Atlanta today!

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are small, hardened deposits that form in your kidneys. They are generally made up of salts, calcium, minerals, and other waste chemicals that your kidneys filter out from your blood.

There are four types of kidney stones, and they are as follows:

  1. Calcium stones
  2. Uric acid stones
  3. Cystine stones
  4. Struvite stones (mostly found in women with urinary tract infections) and can include Staghorn kidney stones

You may have one stone formation or multiple stones. Small or microscopic stones can pass through your urinary tract without causing any symptoms. Your urinary tract plays a vital role in your overall health. It eliminates waste and extra fluid from your body. Your urinary tract consists of your:

  • Kidneys
  • Ureters
  • Bladder
  • Urethra

Larger stones can cause severe pain and even block your ureter, heightening your chances of developing an infection and need for surgery.

The Stages of Passing a Kidney Stone

There are 4 main stages of passing a kidney stone. Below you will find a detailed description of each stage.

Stage 1 — Kidney Stone Formation

Most of the time, the formation of kidney stones doesn’t cause pain. People usually discover them only when they dislodge from the kidney wall. You will eventually become aware of their presence.

If you have stones, you may experience sharp pain that occurs intermittently as the kidney spasms while attempting to eliminate the stone from your body. This pain may feel similar to a back muscle strain. Expect to experience spasms around 1 to 4 times per hour until the stone passes into your ureter.

Rest assured that after the stones have passed, the most difficult part is over.

Stage 2 — The Kidney Stone Exits Your Kidney and Enters Your Ureter

The stone has now reached the ureter, a tube linking the kidneys and bladder. Despite the toughest part being over, this phase can still cause severe discomfort.

Stones larger than 2-3 mm in diameter can be felt as they move through the urinary system. Pain during stage 2 is not as severe but is throbbing due to the stone scraping against the urinary tract.

If kidney stones get stuck anywhere in your urinary system (an impacted kidney stone), you may feel pressure. This sensation is not necessarily painful, but it will be noticeable.

Stage 3 — An Increase in Bladder Pressure

When the stones reach the bladder, the pain will mostly disappear. However, you will experience intense pressure and a strong urge to urinate frequently, around every 5 minutes, as your body tries to expel the stone.

Sometimes, the stone may get stuck at the entrance of your urethra, blocking urine flow. In such cases, you will have to wait for around 5-10 minutes until the stone returns to the bladder before trying to urinate again.

Stage 4 — The Kidney Stone Leaves Your Body

This fourth and final stage will require some effort from you. Once the stone reaches the open of your urethra, you will need to push hard until it comes out into your toilet bowl.  

How long it will take for you to go through the four stages of passing a kidney stone depends on the size of the kidney stone.

How Does Passing a Kidney Stone Feel?

Sometimes a small kidney stone can pass through all the stages without causing noticeable pain. However, in other cases, passing a kidney stone can cause extreme pain, and some people even consider it worse than giving birth naturally.

If you have a large kidney stone, you may experience the following symptoms:

These symptoms can be confused with a urinary tract infection. At the onset of your symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention to receive an accurate diagnosis.

Kidney Stone Treatment

After a thorough exam and diagnostic testing, your doctor at Urology of Greater Atlanta will tailor a treatment plan specifically for your needs. Stones can be treated by means of conservative and/or surgical techniques, depending on their severity. Medication can be used to decrease your pain and manage nausea and vomiting.

Your doctor may recommend the following treatments if your kidney stones are too large to pass on their own:

  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) – During this treatment, sound waves are used to break a larger kidney stone into small segments.
  • Endoscopic Ureteroscopy with Holmium Laser – During this procedure, your doctor will insert a small tool called an endoscope through your ureter to find, retrieve, or even destroy the stone.

Due to their size, some stones will require surgical removal to prevent kidney damage. This will be the case if the stone is larger than 6 mm. At other times, stones that are smaller than 6 mm may still be recommended for a surgical outpatient procedure if they are blocking urine flow. 

Surgical treatment options can include:

What Can I Do to Prevent Kidney Stones?

Unfortunately, kidney stones cannot always be prevented.  This may be the case if you have kidney disease. Additionally, there are certain medications that may be needed to care for your overall health that could lead to the formation of stones.

However, there are some preventative measures that everyone can take to lower the risks of developing stones. These preventive measures include:

  • Staying hydrated: Dehydration can elevate your chances of developing kidney stones, especially if you are disposed to having them. Drinking plenty of water will increase your urine flow and reduce your chances of stones forming.
  • Making dietary changes: There are certain foods that play a role in the formation of stones. Identifying what these foods are and eliminating/reducing your intake can help you prevent stones. These foods can include:
    • Foods that are high in protein
    • Salty foods
    • Processed sugar
  • Taking prescription medications from your healthcare provider: These medications may be prescribed to help prevent kidney stones, especially if you have a family history of kidney stones.

Although there is a possible risk of kidney stones returning, the outlook for those with kidney stones is very positive.

Kidney stone pain can be excruciating. However, with the extensive expertise of our board-certified urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta, we can help render the proper care so that you can find the relief that you deserve. Contact us today or request an appointment online at one of our many locations throughout Georgia today!

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