If you’ve been diagnosed with a kidney stone, you’re probably curious to learn what you can expect. Passing a kidney stone can be either painless or painful. Some pass it without ever knowing it was there, while others need to call an ambulance because they can’t deal with the pain.
So, what are the stages of passing a kidney stone, and which one is the worst? If you’ve never had a kidney stone before, you’ll want to keep reading. Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough not to feel anything, but it doesn’t hurt to know how much it can hurt.
What Is a Kidney Stone?
Your kidneys work hard to eliminate waste and fluids from your body. But sometimes, kidney stones can form during this process. Kidney stones are pebble-like hard lumps that consist of minerals and salts.
If you have too much salt, certain minerals or chemicals in your system, and not enough urine, the extra material can build up in your kidneys and form crystals.
Other particles may cling to the crystals and create a “stone,” a hard substance that your body may attempt to pass. One in every ten persons in the United States will get a kidney stone at some time in their life.
4 Stages of Passing a Kidney Stone
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Stage One: Creation
The first of four stages of passing a kidney stone is forming a stone, and it’s usually painless. Most people don’t even know it’s happening. You will, however, experience pain when the body tries to get rid of it.
When you start feeling severe pain, maybe even fever and chills, you can be sure the stone has begun moving. Some even notice blood in the urine. Your kidney will spasm to try and move the foreign object, and it will feel like you pulled a muscle.
Spasms can occur between one and four times an hour, and they will continue until the stone has passed into the ureter. This is usually the most painful part.
Stage Two: Stone Enters Ureter
When the stone enters the ureter, a tube that links the kidneys to the bladder, you have moved to the second stage. Just like your kidney, the ureter will also spasm while attempting to pass the stone, and it will be painful.
The ureter’s inner diameter is about 2‒3 mm. If a stone is larger than that, it will cause discomfort. However, the pain will be different in this stage. The ache you’ve experienced in the first stage was intense; at this point, it will be throbbing as the stone scraps its way out.
If the kidney stops somewhere in your urinary system, you will feel increasing pressure. Although that won’t be so painful, you will be aware of it.
Stage Three: Stone Enters Bladder
The third of four stages of passing a kidney stone starts when the stone reaches the bladder. The pain should subside by that point, but you will feel intense pressure. Your body is trying to force the stone out, so you will often feel the need to go to the bathroom.
But the process might not go over smoothly. Kidney stones can become lodged at the urethral opening, preventing urine flow. You must then wait for 5 to 10 minutes for the stone to return to the bladder before attempting again.
Stage Four: Stone Leaves Your Body
The kidney stone is pushed out of your bladder when you urinate in the final stage. It would help if you pushed hard when the stone reached the entrance of the urethra. Continue pressing until it falls into the toilet bowl. There’s generally minimal to no pain at all at this point.
How long it will take to go through the four stages of passing a kidney stone depends on your stone’s size. For smaller stones, it will be about a week or two, while the bigger ones will need four to six weeks.
Kidney Stone Prevention
Kidney stones are a common issue in the US. In fact, more than half a million people end up in an ER every year because of it. Also, if you have a kidney stone, you are more likely to develop another one later in life. And half of those who don’t take precautions usually get another stone within seven years.
You can avoid this by doing the following:
• Drink plenty of water: at least eight glasses a day.
• Reduce sodium and salty foods consumption: A high salt intake might cause calcium levels in the urine to rise. This can result in the formation of stones.
• Eat and drink more calcium: Although it might surprise you, considering the previous sentence, not enough calcium in your body increases the level of oxalates in urine, also leading to kidney stones. So, don’t forget to take calcium through foods and beverages (rather than supplements).
• Mind your diet: Those who had a kidney stone before should decrease the amount of animal protein they take each day. Likewise, certain foods and drinks like nuts, colas, chocolate, beets, spinach, and eggs can increase your chances of forming another kidney stone in the future.