What Is the Best Thing to Do If You Have a Kidney Stone?

Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2022
What Is the Best Thing to Do If You Have a Kidney Stone
If you have a kidney stone, the best thing you can do is to stay hydrated. Learn about kidney stone treatment and prevention

If you have a kidney stone, the best thing you can do is to stay hydrated and follow your doctor’s recommendations. Learn about kidney stone treatment and prevention.

Staying hydrated

Many people who suffer from kidney stones, especially small stones, don’t need surgery. Most doctors recommend staying well hydrated by drinking enough water a day—at least 8-10 glasses or 2 L. 

Water can help smaller stones to pass easily via urine without medications. It also makes you less likely to develop more kidney stones because water dissolves the minerals that form the crystals.

Though water is best, you can also drink other fluids such as fruit or vegetable juices to maintain adequate hydration.

Pain relievers

Your doctor may recommend pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain caused by kidney stones. For severe pain, you may need emergency treatment.

Alkalizing medications

If your kidney stone does not cause significant pain and is not related to infection or obstruction of the urinary tract, your doctor may prescribe sodium bicarbonate or potassium citrate, which are alkalizing agents. For stones larger than 5 mm, a combination of alkalizing agents and tamsulosin may be prescribed to help you pass them faster.

What procedures are used to treat kidney stones?

Sometimes, a large kidney stone needs more than medical therapy. A urologist, who is a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the urinary tract, can perform procedures to remove the kidney stone or break it into small pieces for easier passage via urine:

  • Shock wave lithotripsy: Shock wave lithotripsy uses shock therapy to break kidney stones into smaller pieces. These pieces pass via urine days or weeks after the procedure.
  • Cystoscopy and ureteroscopy: Stones are removed using procedures called cystoscopy and ureteroscopy. Both procedures involve the insertion of a thin, flexible tube with lighted camera into the urethra to reach the bladder or ureter, both of which connect the kidneys to the bladder:
    • Cystoscopy: Inserted through the bladder
    • Ureteroscopy: Inserted through the ureter
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: Percutaneous nephrolithotomy involves making an incision in the back and inserting a thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera into the kidney to locate and remove the kidney stone. You may have to stay in the hospital for a few days after the procedure.

What causes kidney stones?

Although the exact cause of kidney stones is unknown, the condition occurs when substances such as uric acid, cysteine, or oxalate accumulate in the urine. Factors that can increase the risk of developing kidney stones include:

If you have a history of kidney stones, your doctor will take your medical history, ask about your symptoms, and plan treatment for you.


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What are symptoms of kidney stones?

A kidney stone typically does not cause pain, but may cause symptoms such as:

  • Burning sensation when urinating, similar to that of a urinary tract infection
  • Pain on the sides of the abdomen or in the back that radiates to the groin
  • Pink, red, or brown urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How can you prevent kidney stones?

The National Kidney Foundation suggests producing 2-2.5 L of urine daily to reduce the chances of developing kidney stones. Aim to maintain light-colored urine by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

Other measures that can help you prevent kidney stones include the following:

  • Limit caffeine intake. Drinking more than 2 cups a day of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda increases your chances of dehydration and subsequent stone formation.
  • Avoid eating foods high in oxalates. Foods high in oxalates include spinach, beets, rhubarbs, cashews, and almonds. These raise oxalate levels in the body and increase your risk of developing oxalate kidney stones.
  • Control sodium intake. Eating a diet high in salt increases your chances of developing calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones. If you have a history of kidney stones, do not have more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
  • Minimize animal protein intake. Keep an eye on how much animal protein you eat each day, since animal products can contribute to the development of uric acid stones. Eat plant-based proteins instead.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Dave CN. Nephrolithiasis. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/437096-overview