Gallstones vs Kidney Stones and How To Tell the Difference

Kidney stones and gallstones often get confused by patients who misunderstand what is happening in their bodies. Kidney stones originate in the kidneys, while gallstones come from the gallbladder. Knowing what the two organs do helps patients better understand why gallstones vs. kidney stones are doing in their bodies. 

What the Organs Do

The kidneys filter blood and make urine. Kidney stones come from the uric acid and minerals. When the liver makes bile, the gallbladder stores it to help with digestion and fat absorption. The kidneys and the gallbladder can make stones, and they can range in size. Some stones look like sand, while others can be golf-ball sized. Both organs can hold several stones simultaneously. People who get one type of stone tend to be susceptible to developing the other type of stone. 

Symptoms of Gallstone and Kidney Stones

When people have gallstones, they will feel a range of symptoms. Some people have gallstones, but have no symptoms, while others can have pain, nausea, and vomiting. Gallstone pain originates in the upper right abdominal area. 

People with kidney stones might not realize it, while some people will experience significant pain and cramping. Usually, the pain is near the kidneys in the back and sides of the body. Other symptoms include vomiting, blood in the urine, and ureter irritation and pain.

Risks for Gallstones and Kidney Stones

Different people are at risk for gallstones vs. kidney stones. Men over 40 are more likely to get kidney stones than women of the same age. However, anyone over the age of 50 who has had one kidney stone is highly likely to get another. 

When it comes to gallstones, the people most likely at risk are Hispanic or Native American women over the age of 40. The odds increase if the women have diabetes, are obese, or have lost weight quickly.

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Treating Gallstones

Patients with gallstones usually need surgery to remove their gallbladder. Surgeons perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy because once the gallbladder starts making stones, it will continue to do so. Fortunately, people can live without a gallbladder

Treating Kidney Stones

If kidney stones are small, they will pass with minimal pain. Most people with small stones can drink liquids and take pain medication while passing a small stone. If the stone is large and causes pain, physicians will use an ultrasound to break apart the stone so it will pass. 

Preventing Stones

The best way to prevent gallstones is to eat a healthy diet while also exercising regularly. You can also prevent gallstones by losing weight slowly without skipping meals. Women taking estrogen or birth-control pills should talk to their physician about preventing gallstones. 

The best way to prevent kidney stones is to stay hydrated throughout the day. If your body develops calcium oxalate stones, your physicians might suggest avoiding foods with high levels of calcium oxalate. Overall, eating a balanced, healthy diet and staying hydrated is the best way to avoid developing either type of stone.