Bladder Stones vs Kidney Stones - Know Major Differences

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Charu Shrivastava, last updated on 14 June 2024| min read
Bladder Stones vs Kidney Stones - Know Major Differences

Quick Summary

  • Bladder stones and kidney stones are solid masses of minerals and salts that are found in the urinary bladder and kidney respectively.
  • Bladder stones are more common than kidney stones.
  • Bladder stones and kidney stones can cause similar symptoms, such as pain, blood in the urine, and difficulty urinating.

Bladder stones vs kidney stones can be ruled out majorly based on their location. These are solid masses of minerals and salts that are found in the urinary bladder and kidney respectively. When urine is concentrated, the minerals in the urine crystallise and form stones.

While both bladder stones and kidney stones comprise the same concentrated minerals, they are different. The difference between bladder stones and kidney stones is that they develop in different body parts and usually cause different symptoms. In both cases, the stone can lead to complications if it does not pass. 

The following blog discusses the comparison between bladder stones vs kidney stones. But first, let’s understand the anatomy of the urinary tract and how the kidney and bladder are connected.

Anatomy of the Urinary Tract

The four primary urinary tract organs include a pair of kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, and a urethra. 

  1. A pair of purplish-brown kidneys are located below the ribs towards the middle of the back. 
  2. The kidneys clean waste from the blood and remove it in the form of urine. 
  3. Urine made by the kidneys empties into a ureter. 
  4. Ureters are thin, small tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. 
  5. The bladder is a triangular-shaped, hollow organ in the lower abdomen. 
  6. The bladder’s walls expand to store urine and contract to expel urine through the urethra.

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What are Bladder Stones?

Bladder stones or bladder calculi are hard masses of minerals in the bladder that develop when these minerals in the urine crystallise and clump together. This usually happens when urine stays in the bladder after you pee.

While small stones in the bladder can pass without treatment, you may need medications or surgery to remove larger stones.

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones or renal calculi are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys. Stones in the kidneys can affect any part of the urinary tract - from the kidneys to the bladder. They are more common than bladder stones.

Sometimes, kidney stones can turn into bladder stones if they move down the ureters. If recognised early, kidney stones usually cause no permanent damage.

Bladder Stones vs Kidney Stones

While both bladder stones and kidney stones are formed due to the same concentrated minerals, the primary difference is their location. Bladder stones form in the urinary bladder. On the other hand, kidney stones form in the kidneys. 

Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

Apart from the location, the symptoms and causes are also slightly different for the two. The following table shows the comparison between bladder stone vs kidney stones based on their symptoms, causes, and risk factors.

Parameters Bladder Stones Kidney Stones

Small bladder stones usually do not cause any symptoms.

However, if a stone is large and irritates the bladder wall or blocks the urine flow, symptoms may include the following:

  1. A frequent urge to urinate
  2. Lower abdominal pain
  3. Dysuria (pain during urination)
  4. Hematuria (blood in the urine)
  5. Interrupted urine flow or difficulty urinating
  6. Cloudy or dark-coloured urine
  7. Urinary tract infections
  1. Severe, sharp pain in the back and side
  2. Pain that extends to the lower abdomen and the groyne 
  3. Dysuria (pain during urination)
  4. Hematuria (blood in the urine)
  5. A frequent urge to urinate
  6. Urinating in small amounts
  7. Red, pink, or brown urine
  8. Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  9. Nausea and vomiting
  10. Fever and chills

These symptoms can worsen if the stone shifts positions in the urinary tract or gets stuck in the ureters or urethra.


Bladder stones develop when the bladder does not empty completely. Some possible reasons for the same include:

  1. Neurogenic bladder: A neurogenic bladder damages the nerves that control the bladder muscles.
    As a result, the bladder muscles are unable to contract. This causes urine to stay in the bladder. 
  2. Prostate gland enlargement: An enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia can obstruct urine flow, making it difficult to empty the bladder. 
  3. Urinary tract infections: UTIs can cause bladder inflammation, resulting in bladder stones. 
  4. Urinary bladder diverticulum: A bladder diverticulum is a pouch or sac in the bladder wall, where the urine can collect and become concentrated. 
  5. Medical devices: Bladder catheters or other objects like contraceptive devices and urinary stents can cause bladder stones. 
  6. Kidney stones: If a kidney stone travels into the bladder and gets trapped, it can grow and turn into a bladder stone.

Kidney stones form when the urine contains more crystal-forming substances than the fluid in the urine can dilute.

Common causes include:

  1. Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can cause the kidneys to produce little urine, leading to highly concentrated urine. 
  2. Infections: Urinary tract infections can also cause some types of kidney stones.
  3. Weight loss surgery: Surgery for weight loss can change the mineral composition of urine, leading to kidney stones.
  4. Metabolic disorders: Certain conditions like hyperoxaluria (too much oxalate in the urine), hypercalciuria (excess calcium in the urine), and hyperuricosuria (excess uric acid in the urine) can affect the urine’s mineral composition.
Risk Factors
  1. Male gender
  2. Older age (over 50)
  3. Urethral strictures
  4. Radiation therapy
  5. Bladder augmentation surgery
  6. Schistosomiasis (a disease caused by parasitic flatworms)
  7. Using a Foley catheter
  8. Recurrent UTIs
  9. Recurrent kidney stones
  1. Male gender
  2. Family history of kidney stones
  3. Drinking too little water
  4. Diet high in protein, sodium, and sugar
  5. Hyperparathyroidism
  6. Structural kidney abnormalities
  7. Obesity
  8. Hypertension
  9. Cystic kidney disease
  10. Inflammatory bowel disease
  11. Recurrent UTIs
  12. Certain medications, like diuretics

Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

The diagnosis and treatment of bladder stones vs kidney stones can also differ slightly. The following table shows the comparison between bladder stones vs kidney stones based on their diagnosis, treatment, and complications.

Parameters Bladded Stones Kidney Stones
  1. Medical history: Evaluating your medical history can help the doctor determine your risk for bladder stones. 
  2. Physical exam: The doctor will feel your lower abdomen to check if the bladder is enlarged or perform a rectal exam to check if the prostate is enlarged. 
  3. Urine test: A urine sample is collected to look for microscopic amounts of bacteria, blood, and crystallised minerals.
    The sample is also examined for urinary tract infections that can cause bladder stones.
  4. CT scan: It is one of the most sensitive tests to produce clear images of the inside of the body and detect even small bladder stones. 
  5. X-rays: X-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder can help determine if you have bladder stones. 
  6. Ultrasound: It uses sound waves to create images that help detect bladder stones. 
  7. Cystoscopy: The doctor uses a small scope (a flexible tube with a camera) to look inside your bladder for stones.
  1. Medical history: Evaluating your medical history can help the doctor determine your risk for kidney stones. 
  2. Blood testing: Blood tests reveal calcium or uric acid levels in the blood. It can help monitor the health of your kidneys and detect other medical conditions. 
  3. Urine test: The doctor will ask you to perform two urine collections for two consecutive days.
    The test helps the doctor determine the level of stone-forming minerals and stone-preventing substances. It also looks for signs of infections.
  4. Imaging tests: A CT scan, X-ray, and ultrasound help determine the size, shape, location, and number of kidney stones.
    These tests also assist the doctor in deciding the treatment. 

Drinking lots of water can help you pass small bladder stones naturally.

However, since bladder stones form due to difficulty emptying the bladder completely, you may need more than just water. The treatment options include:

  1. Cystolitholapaxy: The doctor uses a scope to visualise bladder stones and then breaks these stones using laser or high-frequency sound waves. 
  2. Surgery: For large bladder stones, you may need open surgery in which the doctor makes an incision in your abdomen to remove the stones.

Small kidney stones usually do not require invasive treatment. You can pass small stones by:

  1. Drinking 1.8 to 3.6 litres of water a day
  2. Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium
  3. Medication, known as alpha-blocker, to help pass the kidney stone

If the kidney stone is too large or causes symptoms, you may need more extensive treatment, such as:

  1. Shockwave lithotripsy: The procedure uses high-energy shock waves to break stones into small pieces that can easily pass through your urine. 
  2. Ureteroscopy: The doctor inserts a ureteroscope through the bladder and into the ureter.
    The instrument helps detect kidney stones and retrieves them in a surgical basket or breaks them using a laser. 
  3. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: The procedure is performed when kidney stones cannot be removed through other procedures.
    The stone is removed by inserting a small telescope and instrument in an incision made in the back. 
  4. Open stone surgery: This procedure is rarely performed in which a longer incision is made to remove stones.

If left untreated, bladder stones can cause the following complications:

  1. Chronic bladder problems
  2. Urinary tract infections

If left untreated, kidney stones can cause the following complications:

  1. Recurring kidney stones
  2. Blockage in the urinary tract
  3. Urinary tract infections
  4. Severe pain
  5. Kidney failure


Prevention of Bladder Stones and Kidney Stones

Despite the differences between bladder stones and kidney stones, you can take the following steps to reduce the risk of developing either type of these stones:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids (at least 1.8 litres) daily, especially water.
  2. Maintain an ideal weight.
  3. Eat a balanced diet with limited sodium, sugar, and animal proteins.
  4. Let your healthcare provider know if you have a family history of urinary tract stones.
  5. If you experience recurrent UTIs, visit your doctor to find the cause and get treatment.
  6. If you have hyperparathyroidism, you can get your parathyroid gland removed to prevent stones. 
  7. If you have a kidney stone, take your prescription medicines as directed by the doctor.

When to Call a Doctor?

Most bladder stones and kidney stones are not life-threatening. However, urinary tract stones can cause complications like repeated UTIs and chronic urinary difficulties if left untreated. Seek medical attention if you experience the following:

  1. Severe pain
  2. Difficulty passing urine
  3. Blood in the urine
  4. Fever and chills
  5. Nausea and vomiting


Bladder stones and kidney stones are solid masses of crystallised minerals found in the urine. The primary difference between bladder stones and kidney stones is that while bladder stones develop in the bladder, kidney stones form in the kidneys.

Kidney stones can sometimes pass into the bladder and turn into bladder stones. If the stones are small, they can pass without invasive treatment. However, if they get bigger, they can block urine flow and cause complications like urinary tract infections.

Usually, these stones can be removed with medication or procedures to break up the stones. Simple lifestyle changes can also help prevent bladder and kidney stones. 

If you have more doubts regarding bladder stones vs kidney stones or experience the symptoms mentioned above, get in touch with an expert at HexaHealth TODAY! Our team of experienced doctors can help you diagnose your condition and offer the best treatment options based on the size and location of the bladder or kidney stone.

Frequently Asked Questions

The difference between bladder stones and kidney stones is that bladder stones form when it does not empty due to an enlarged prostate, neurogenic bladder, UTIs, kidney stones, etc. On the other hand, a kidney stone develops in the kidneys due to crystal-forming substances in the urine.

You can know if you have a urinary tract stone by assessing the symptoms of bladder stones vs kidney stones. If you have bladder stones, you may experience pain during urination, a frequent urge to urinate, lower abdominal pain, blood in the urine, interrupted urine flow, cloudy or dark-coloured urine, or urinary tract infections.

Meanwhile, in the condition of kidney stones, you may experience symptoms like a sharp pain in the back and side, pain during urination, blood in the urine, a frequent urge to urinate, urinating in small amounts, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, nausea and vomiting, or fever and chills.

Bladder stones are hard masses of minerals inside the bladder when minerals in concentrated urine crystallise and form stones. It usually happens when you cannot empty the bladder of urine.
Most bladder stones do not cause permanent damage to the bladder. However, if left untreated, large bladder stones can cause complications like long-term urinary difficulties (pain or frequent urination) and urinary tract infections.
A bladder stone generally passes within a few days. However, it may take longer, especially in older men with large prostates.
Some small bladder stones may pass on their own without treatment. But for the most bladder stones that do not pass on their own, you may need to get them removed with laser or surgery.
A kidney stone can travel from the kidney into the bladder. Generally, if the stone can pass into the bladder, it can easily be expelled from the body in urine. The stone gets stuck and grows inside the bladder in rare cases for patients who have trouble urinating.

As a kidney stone reaches between the ureter and bladder, you may experience severe pain while urinating. This can be mistaken for kidney infection as both these conditions have several same symptoms, such as pain when urinating, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, a frequent need to urinate, blood in the urine, fever, and nausea or vomiting.

It is possible to have both an infection and a kidney stone.

You can try to dissolve a bladder stone naturally by drinking lots of water. Some other natural remedies to treat bladder stones include apple juice, watermelon seeds, barley water with cranberry juice, and pineapple juice with rose water.
Cystolitholapaxy is the most frequently performed procedure for flushing bladder stones. In this procedure, the doctor uses a scope to visualise bladder stones and then breaks these stones using laser or high-frequency sound waves. The stone pieces are then removed from the bladder.
Kidney cancer shares similar symptoms with kidney stones, including lower back pain, blood in the urine, and fatigue. Due to these similarities, the healthcare provider may sometimes diagnose a mass in the kidney as a stone on ultrasound.
A CT scan is usually the first diagnostic test for kidney stones as it is the most accurate diagnostic test, and small stones can be missed on an ultrasound. However, today, some doctors suggest ultrasound as the first diagnostic test because a CT scan exposes people to radiation.
Ultrasound is an effective diagnostic test to detect bladder stones. The test uses sound waves to visualise the bladder and find any stones present.
CT scans are the most commonly used gold-standard test for diagnosing kidney stones. The sensitivity of a CT scan for detecting kidney stones is the highest of all other imaging tests. It detects even the tiny stones that may be missed in other tests like an ultrasound.

Updated on : 14 June 2024

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


Charu Shrivastava

Charu Shrivastava

BSc. Biotechnology I MDU and MSc in Medical Biochemistry (HIMSR, Jamia Hamdard)

2 Years Experience

Skilled in SEO and passionate about creating informative and engaging medical content. Her proofreading and content writing for medical websites is impressive. She creates informative and engaging content that educ...View More

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