Kidney Stones

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Kidney stone diagnosis

How do I know if I have kidney stones?

As previously mentioned, you may not know that you have a kidney stone until it passes through the kidney to the ureter—this is generally when pain, discomfort, and the other signs and symptoms of kidney stones occur.

If you experience the signs and symptoms of a kidney stone, see your healthcare provider to get the right diagnosis and treatment. He or she will likely begin17 by asking about your symptoms, assessing your medical history, and determining whether any of your lifestyle factors (such as diet or fluid consumption) may contribute to your likelihood of developing a kidney stone.

If your healthcare provider suspects you may have a kidney stone, he or she may recommend several diagnostic18 tests and procedures, including:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can help reveal higher-than-normal levels of stone-forming substances (like calcium or uric acid) in your blood. They can also help monitor your kidney health, potentially leading your provider to check for other medical conditions that may cause kidney stones19.
  • Urinalysis: These tests involve analyzing your urine for raised levels of the chemicals that make up kidney stones (or low levels of substances that prevent stones from forming). The presence of white blood cells and bacteria in your urine may indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI), which may also cause painful urination.
  • Imaging tests: Multiple imaging tests may be used to reveal kidney stones in your urinary tract. X-rays can detect the majority of kidney stones; however, they may miss very small ones.

Some tests that may be used to find smaller kidney stones include computerized tomography (CT) scans (which create 3-D images by combining multiple X-rays) and intravenous pyelography (IVP) tests (in which dye is injected into a vein, traveling through the kidneys and bladder and revealing stones and blockages) may also be used to find kidney stones.

  • Analysis of passed stones: If you have one or more kidney stones, you may be asked to save them as they pass by urinating through a strainer. Analyzing the content of your kidney stones can help reveal their cause, allowing your provider to determine the best course of treatment going forward.

As always, see your healthcare provider if you experience any signs and symptoms or suspect you may have kidney stones.

Passing a kidney stone

The amount of time it takes for kidney stones to pass depends on their size. Generally, it takes stones anywhere from several weeks to a few months20 to pass from the kidneys through the urinary tract and out of the body.

Several medications can make passing a kidney stone easier and faster. Pain management is generally one of the first concerns when dealing with a kidney stone. In many cases, taking over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen (generic Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve some of the pain and discomfort associated with passing kidney stones.

If you are having extreme difficulty passing kidney stones, your healthcare provider might prescribe alpha blockers like tamsulosin21 (generic Flomax), which relax the muscles in your ureter, making it easier and less painful to pass stones.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.