Gallstones Or Kidney Stones? How To Tell The Difference

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Gallstones and kidney stones are two health complications that share a few similarities, primarily because they are caused by the solidification of compounds in two key body organs, leading to the blockage in the flow of fluids.

This issue can cause much pain and must immediately be treated if patients notice their telltale symptoms. Below, we share the critical differences between gallstones and kidney stones and how you can discern them.

Understanding the differences between the two

It is essential to first know about the specific organs affected by these two issues. The gall bladder is part of the digestive system, while the kidneys are an organ in the urinary system.

The purpose of the former is to store bile created by the liver, which facilitates the body’s digestion and absorption of fats. The latter focuses on filtering blood and produces the byproduct of urine.

Kidney stones are solid masses from the buildup of tiny crystals from minerals such as calcium, uric acid, and oxalate, which tend to form in the kidneys.

Meanwhile, gallstones are dense, pebble-like deposits of pigment or cholesterol that form inside the gallbladder. These stones can range from something as small as a single grain of sand to as large as the size of a golf ball.

Know your risk

The risk factors associated with gallstones are generally:

  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Being overweight or obese
  • High-fat and high-cholesterol diets
  • Diabetes
  • Existing gallbladder diseases
  • Family history of gallstones
  • Rapid weight loss

In contrast, there are no single definite causes for kidney stones, but there are several factors that could increase the risk of developing them. Kidney stones are formed when the urine has more crystal-forming substances than fluids it can dilute.

Moreover, if the urine also lacks enough substances that prevent these crystals from sticking together, it creates an ideal environment for kidney stones.

Recognise the symptoms

Many people who have gallstones rarely experience symptoms until the stones begin to block their biliary tract, which may lead to:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen

This lack of early symptoms is also true for kidney stones. However, once they become large enough, they can stretch and irritate the ureter and block urine flow, resulting in sharp, cramping pain at the back and side near the kidney region. This intense pain can also be accompanied by:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the urine

How to prevent gallstones and kidney stones

Your diet plays a significant role in preventing the formation of these stones. As such, following a healthy and balanced lifestyle is the best way to avoid these complications. Your weight is another risk factor. If you are unsure if you need to lose some pounds, your body will typically provide subtle signs you need to exercise more.

Another excellent and easy habit to adopt for specifically preventing kidney stones is drinking plenty of water daily. For gallstone prevention, avoiding intense weight loss programs like severe calorie restriction is best, which could lead to quick and sudden weight loss.

Lastly, observing a healthy fibre intake in your diet also helps further reduce your risk. To know more prevention measures specific to your case, seek out a medical professional for an online medical consultation.


Gallstones and kidney stones can be found in everyone’s system. However, when they grow too large, they will cause the symptoms mentioned above possibly worsen. If you experience the main symptoms of these health complications, reach out to a virtual doctor in Singapore as soon as possible.

If you need to know what treatment is best for gallstones or kidney stones, consult with a doctor via the MyCLNQ app. As the leading app for telehealth in Singapore, MyCLNQ offers you quick access to all the medical support and prescribed medicine you need while staying at home.

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