Gallstones vs. Kidney Stones – What’s the Difference?

By: John Hinson | On: September 21, 2015

Stones forming in the body might seem like a strange idea. Yet gallstones and kidney stones develop in many people every year! While many of their symptoms may be similar, they affect different organs, and have different causes and composition. You may be wondering: when comparing Gallstones vs. Kidney Stones, what’s the difference?

Gallstones vs. Kidney Stones

Gallstones vs. Kidney Stones – What’s the Difference? - Florida Medical ClinicBoth gallstones and kidney stones are, in essence, the buildup of certain materials in their respective organs. Pain occurs when the buildup blocks the organ from functioning normally. In both cases, the stones will need to be removed.

Gallstones

The gallbladder’s job is to store bile, which is produced by the liver and helps with digestion.

Gallstones are hard lumps which form in the bile duct or gallbladder.

Bile consists of cholesterol, water, fats, proteins, bile salts, and bilirubin, which is a yellow-brown pigment. Gallstones form when bile contains too much cholesterol or bilirubin. Obesity and diets high in cholesterol and fat can lead to gallstone formation. Women predominantly develop gallstones.

Gallstones can be asymptomatic. Many people have them and don’t know it! Other times, they can cause gallbladder attacks. Pain and other complications occur if a gallstone blocks a duct, causing an infection. In these cases, the gallstones will need to be removed.

Like kidney stones, gallstones can be removed without removing the gallbladder itself. However, if the gallbladder does need to be removed, don’t worry – your body doesn’t need your gallbladder to continue functioning normally! Gallbladders are often recommended to be removed because you will most likely produce more stones.

Kidney Stones

The kidney filters blood, which is then converted into urine. Kidney stones occur when mineral deposits build up in the kidneys. They usually result from insufficient liquid intake.

Gallstones vs. Kidney Stones – What’s the Difference? - Florida Medical ClinicKidneys use liquids in order to process minerals normally. Without enough liquid in your system, your kidneys won’t be able to process the mineral buildup efficiently, and stones will begin to form.

Other causes of kidney stone formation include obesity, heredity, diet, age, and calcium supplements, among others. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women.

As with gallstones, kidney stones can be asymptomatic. Pain begins when kidney stones grow large enough to block the ureter and cannot pass through naturally. Most of the time, with sufficient liquid intake, your system can pass kidney stones naturally. If the stone is too large, or other medical complications arise, you will need to have a surgery known as a lithotripsy to remove the stone.

Symptoms of Gallstones and Kidney Stones

Although gallstones and kidney stones affect different organs, their symptoms are similar.

Both can cause you to feel…

  • Nauseous
  • Sweaty
  • Restless
  • Feverish
  • Chilled
  • Pain under the ribs
  • Pain between your shoulder blades

Differences between the two…

  • Kidney stone pain can come in waves, instead of being constant
  • Kidney stones can lead to blood in the urine
  • Gallstones can lead to jaundice, or yellowed skin and whites of the eyes

If you are concerned about your symptoms, contact your doctor! It’s important to note that jaundice or high fevers with chills are indicative of a more serious problem, so seek immediate care if you develop either of these symptoms.

Can Gallstones and Kidney Stones be Prevented?

Both gallstones and kidney stones happen for a variety of reasons. In most people, kidneys stones can be prevented. For gallstones, there is no definite guarantee of prevention; however, there are plenty of precautions you can take to lower your risk!

For kidney stones, the best way to prevent them from forming is to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water! It’s also recommended that you avoid foods with high oxalate content.

For gallstones, you can lower your risk by eating a healthy diet, and avoid fatty foods or foods high in cholesterol. Vegetarian diets, or diets which include more vegetables, as well as adding fiber to your diet will also help. Weight loss is another great way to lower your risk!

Florida Medical Clinic

Florida Medical Clinic’s Gastroenterology Department is very experienced in dealing with both gallstones and kidney stones. We offer both general consultation as well as appointments for all your gallstone and kidney stone troubles! With six locations around Tampa, you’ll be able to find relief near you!

 

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