Kidney Stones FAQs

  1. How big are kidney stones?
  2. Do all kidney stones require treatment?
  3. Is shock-wave (lithotripsy) treatment painful?
  4. When can I return to normal activity after lithotripsy?
  5. Do stones recur after treatment with lithotripsy?
  6. Do kidney stones cause damage to the kidneys?
  7. How does water intake prevent kidney stones from returning?
  8. What else can I do that may help prevent kidney stones from returning?

1. How big are kidney stones?
Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand, or can grow to over one inch in diameter.

2. Do all kidney stones require treatment?
If a stone is not causing symptoms or expected to cause problems due to its location, it can be left untreated and monitored for future changes. Many small stones pass through the body without treatment within hours or a few days. Your doctor may recommend drinking adequate fluids and a healthy, balanced diet to help with the process.

3. Is shock-wave (lithotripsy) treatment painful?
Both the density and size of kidney stones will affect the intensity of shock-wave therapy. In some cases an anesthetic may be used during treatment to help with discomfort. Your doctor will likely use X-rays or ultrasound to help determine the position of the stone as well as to monitor the status of the stone during treatment. If the stone doesn't break up completely, you may need a second round of therapy or another method of stone removal. After treatment, it may take months for all the stone fragments to pass naturally out of the body.

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4. When can I return to normal activity after lithotripsy?
If you are feeling well without taking pain medication and eating and drinking normally, you may return to your usual activities.

5. Do stones recur after treatment with lithotripsy?
It's possible that leftover stone fragments can grow into stones, causing a recurrence. Follow-up care to check for new stone growth can help decrease the possibility of further therapy.

6. Do kidney stones cause damage to the kidneys?
The potential for damage from kidney stones depends on the size and number stones, as well as potential complications from infection or obstruction. To minimize the risk of damage, symptom-causing kidney stones need to be monitored and treated to help eliminate them from the body and prevent further occurrences.

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7. How does water intake prevent kidney stones from returning?
For people who have a history of kidney stones, we recommend drinking at least eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water per day — enough to flush out excess substances that increase your risk. Your urine should appear pale and clear, which is achieved by drinking enough fluid to produce more than 2.5 liters of urine a day.

8. What else can I do that may help prevent kidney stones from returning?
No matter what type of kidney stone you may have experienced, your diet plays a role in determining if kidney stones will return. Avoid the following diet choices that can increase the chances stones will come back:

  • Lack of proper fluid intake, especially water
  • Carbonated, sugary sodas and beverages
  • Lack of fiber
  • Low-carbohydrate, high animal protein diet that increases uric acid levels
  • Too much salt/sodium, oxalates and calcium
  • Excess vitamin C supplements

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