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Kidney stones vs gallbladder stones: Know the difference in symptoms and diagnosis

Kidney stones and gallbladder stones are two common medical conditions that people often confuse due to their similar symptoms. While both conditions involve the formation of hard deposits in the body, they occur in different organs and require different treatment approaches.

Edited By: India TV Health Desk New Delhi Published on: April 02, 2023 18:00 IST
Kidney stones vs gallbladder stones
Image Source : FREEPIK Kidney stones vs gallbladder stones: know the difference

Kidney stones and gallbladder stones show similar symptoms, such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Both types of stones can be tiny or large, hindering important body functions. Gallbladder pain is felt in the right upper abdomen, while kidney stone pain can be on either side of the flank. This can make it hard to tell which type of stone is causing the discomfort. Both cause severe pain and discomfort in your body. 

Gallbladder stones primarily consist of cholesterol, whereas kidney stones are primarily composed of calcium salts. When the body produces excessive cholesterol in bile, it can accumulate in the gallbladder and form crystals and stones. On the other hand, when the body deposits an excess amount of calcium in the kidney, it can form kidney stones. Usually,  kidney stones are more frequently occurring than gallbladder stones. Studies have found that the latter is more prevalent among females and in the northern regions of India.

Kidney stones and gallbladder stones have few things in common. They both happen when the body has too much of something that needs to be removed. They both can cause bad stomach pain, feeling sick and throwing up, and sometimes need help from a doctor. They can also cause other problems, like infections or blocking parts of your body where fluid needs to flow.

Symptoms of gallbladder stones

  • Discomforting pain in the abdomen, mostly in the top right corner.
  • Pain in between  the shoulder blades.
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Dyspepsia

Symptoms of kidney stones

  • Back pain that expands to the groin
  • Pain along with vomiting or nausea
  • High fever
  • Blood in urine
  • Cloudy urine 
  • Kidney malfunction

Remedies to follow at home

To cure gallstones, experts advise people to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding fatty foods. If diagnosed with gallstones, laparoscopic surgery is suggested to avoid complications.

As for kidney stones, it is advisable to drink 4 liters of water per day to reduce salt intake. Stones that are smaller than 5 mm may pass on their own, while those that are larger than 5 mm may require surgical intervention.

The right diagnosis

To diagnose these conditions, doctors typically gather information about the patient's medical history and perform a physical examination. They may also use imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scans, or X-rays to examine the stones and their location. In some cases, doctors may also require urine and blood tests to determine what caused the stones to form in the first place.

In some cases, gallbladder stones, especially large solitary ones, can be left untreated if they are asymptomatic, meaning they are not causing any symptoms. This is particularly true if the gallbladder wall thickness is normal on sonography.

Similarly, very small kidney stones, especially those that are less than 5 mm in size, may not require complex treatment. In many cases, increasing fluid intake can help the patient pass the stone spontaneously without the need for medical intervention. However, if the stone is causing significant pain or if there is a risk of complications, such as infection or kidney damage, treatment may be necessary.

Regular medical check-ups are important for early detection of kidney and gallbladder stones. With proper medical care, lifestyle changes, and regular check-ups, kidney and gallbladder stones can be effectively managed and treated.


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