Difference between Gallstones and Kidney Stones

Key difference: Gallstones are hard, pebble-like deposits that form inside the gallbladder. Kidney Stones are a solid mass made up of tiny crystals in the kidney which usually pass out in the urine.

Gallstones and kidney stones are two different conditions that a body may occur. A gallstone is a hard, pebble-like deposit that forms inside the gallbladder, while, a kidney stone is a solid mass made up of tiny crystals in the kidney.

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that stores bile salts until they are needed to help digest fatty foods. Gallstones are caused by crystallization of cholesterol. This happens when gallbladder absorbs more liquid than its normal capacity, this leads the bile to become concentrated and the cholesterol will start crystallize. This can be brought on by a number of factors, including improper diet, toxicity, liver malfunction, and/or chemical disturbance. The most common treatment for a gallstone is surgery. In order to prevent gallstones, one should have a diet rich in fiber, less carbohydrates, and less saturated fats like butter. One should also exercise regularly.

Kidney stones, on the other hand, are small crystals that form in the kidney. This happens when substances in the urine crystallize. Kidney stones usually pass out in the urine but are extremely painful. If they are large, or if the body is unable to pass the stone, surgery might be required. Kidney stones may be brought on by usage of birth control pills or if the urinary track is blocked by a gallstone. One should drink lost of water to avoid kidney stones.

A complete comparison between the two is as follows:



Kidney Stones


hard, pebble-like deposits that form inside the gallbladder

A solid mass made up of tiny crystals


Small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.

Small as a grain of sand


Cholesterol gallstones - stones made of cholesterol

Pigment stones - stones made of bilirubin

Calcium stones – most common, Cystine stones, Struvite stones, uric acid stones, stones of medications such as acyclovir, indinavir, and triamterene.

Likely to affect

Women, Native Americans, Hispanics, and people over age 40.

Men between the ages of 20 to 30, premature infants, some types run in families.


Range from no symptoms, to cramping pain in the middle to right upper abdomen, fever, yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes, clay-colored stools, nausea and vomiting

Symptoms after stone moves into the ureters: pain in the belly area or side of the back, groin pain or testicle pain, abnormal urine color, blood in the urine, chills, fever, nausea, vomiting



Abdominal ultrasound

Abdominal CT scan

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Gallbladder radionuclide scan

Endoscopic ultrasound

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTCA)


Liver function tests

Pancreatic enzymes

Physical exam

Blood tests to check calcium, phosphorus, uric acid, and electrolyte levels

Kidney function tests

Urinalysis to see crystals and look for red blood cells in urine

Examination of the stone to determine the type

Abdominal CT scan

Abdominal/kidney MRI

Abdominal x-rays

Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

Kidney ultrasound

Retrograde pyelogram


Surgery, medication, or lithotripsy

Small stones may pass on their own, drinking at least 6 - 8 glasses of water per day, narcotic pain relievers, hospitalization, medication including Allopurinol (for uric acid stones), antibiotics (for struvite stones), diuretics, phosphate solutions, sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate, water pills (thiazide diuretics), surgery in extreme cases

Image Courtesy: istudymedicine.com, health.ucsd.edu

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