What's the Difference Between Gallbladder and Kidney Stones?

Gallstones and kidney stones — they sound similar, and they’re often easily confused. They’re both called stones, but the truth is that they are two very different conditions.

Gallstones and kidney stones differ in location, causes, symptoms, and treatment. But they do have one thing in common: abdominal pain. If you’re suffering sharp, intense pain in your abdomen, it’s crucial to know the difference between the two.

At Stone Relief Center, W. Cooper Buschemeyer, III, MD, and our team specialize in treating kidney stones. We offer the latest in kidney stone treatments and pain management to give you relief, fast.

Understanding gallstones

Your gallbladder is a small organ located on the right side of your abdomen below your liver. Its job is to hold bile, a digestive fluid, and release it into your small intestine.

Sometimes, fluids inside your gallbladder harden into deposits called gallstones. Gallstones can be caused by cholesterol buildup or high levels of bilirubin in bile. They range in size, with some growing as large as golf balls. 

About 10-15% of Americans have gallstones at some point in their lives. Gallstones don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, symptoms can include:

Gallstones are more common in women than in men. Gallstones that cause painful symptoms don’t go away independently, and the most common treatment is gallbladder removal surgery.

Recognizing kidney stones

You have two kidneys. They’re located on either side of your spine, just below your ribcage. Your kidneys filter waste from your blood, and that waste becomes urine.

Kidney stones form when your kidneys collect higher-than-normal levels of certain minerals, salts, and other substances. The most common types of kidney stones are made from calcium, oxalate, and phosphate. 

Unlike gallstones, kidney stones are more common in men than women. An estimated 19% of men will experience kidney stones in their lifetime, compared to about 9% of women.

Kidney stones generally don’t cause symptoms when they form. But when they move inside your kidneys or move into your ureter, it’s often painful. 

Symptoms of kidney stones include:

Because the kidneys are connected to your bladder and your urethra through your urinary system, kidney stones can exit your body on their own — unlike gallstones. However, kidney stones can be excruciating, and large ones may not pass on their own.

Treating kidney stones

At Stone Relief Center, Dr. Buschemeyer and our team are experts in treating kidney stones. We use extensive diagnostic testing to evaluate kidney stones and develop an effective treatment plan.

Even small kidney stones can take several weeks to pass naturally. We can recommend at-home care, such as drinking plenty of water and managing discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers. There are also medications available that can speed up the stone’s movement through your urinary tract.

Large kidney stones may require more advanced treatment to pass. We offer various non-invasive kidney stone treatments like extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and minimally invasive surgery, including ureteroscopy, to treat large stones and stop your discomfort.

Find relief from your pain at Stone Relief Center. Call us at 281-674-8021, request an appointment online, or send our team a message today.

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