Difference Between Kidney Stone and Gallstone

The painful stones that develop in certain parts of our body are only a few millimetres in size but can cause unavoidable pain and discomfort for you. The two most common places for stones to form are the kidney and gallbladder. These stones can exist in your body without imposing any major harm but are considerably painful once they are in large sizes. Many people cannot detect the difference between the two and assume they are the same. However, there are some crucial differences between kidney stones and gallstones, starting from different origins.

Let's dive into this blog which outlines the major differences between kidney stones and gallstones. 

How are Kidney Stones & Gallstones Different?

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are the result of mineral deposits in the organ. The kidney is responsible for filtering the blood and ensuring that the waste is eliminated from the body through urine. Before the urine formation, minerals from the blood are separated, and build up to form grain like formations. 

However, sometimes these grains turn up into bigger pieces and obstruct the pathway. On the other hand, kidney stones are also the result of low levels of fluids in the body. Lack of fluids causes dysfunction in the kidneys, which causes a build-up of minerals. An unhealthy diet, calcium supplements, age, etc. are also some factors associated with kidney stones.


Gallstones are found in the gallbladder or bile duct. The organ's primary function is to help with digestion by storing bile juice. Gallstones are formed when too much bilirubin or cholesterol accumulates in the gallbladder. At first, these stones might pile up as small as a grain of salt, but later on, they may become bigger until they start to hurt.

Gallstones can also cause cholecystitis, which causes massive pain if not treated early. This can also lead to duct blockage and infection. There are two types of gallstones:

Cholesterol Gallstones

Pigment Gallstones

Made up of excess Cholesterols

Made up of excess Bilirubin 

Most Common (80%) Less Common
Yellow or green coloured stones Dark brown or black coloured stones

Points of Difference between Kidney stones and gallstones

Points of Difference Kidney Stones Gallstones

Kidney stones are made of uric acid, phosphate, and oxalate crystals.

Gallstones are made up of bile salts, bilirubin, and cholesterol.

Contributing Foods to Formation







Food items such as nuts, spinach, beetroot, tea, tomato, chocolates rich in calcium, sodium, and oxalates, and many more. Drinking less water can also be a contributing factor.


Consumption of unhealthy fats, high cholesterol food items, red meat, whole milk, dairy food items such as butter, cream, cheese, etc., and deep-fried snacks can also cause gallstones.
Who Is at Risk Kidney stones are more prevalent in men over the age of 40 years. Also, if someone has had a stone in their kidney before, there is a strong probability of getting another one in the next few years.  Women are more prone to have gallstones in comparison to men. Women over the age of 40 who go through weight loss or diabetes, and even obesity, are likely to have gallstones

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What are the Symptoms of kidney stones and Gall Stones?

Kidney Stones Symptoms Gall Stones Symptoms
  1. Severe pain in the lower abdomen
  2. Pain in the sides of the body and back
  3. Burning sensation or pain while urination
  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhoea
  3. Dark urine
  4. Indigestion
  5. Pain in stomach
  6. Nausea
  7. Clay coloured stools

What are the Causes of Kidney Stones and Gallstones?

Some of the causes of kidney stones include:

  1. Lack of water causes improper waste removal from the body, which leads to the mineral build up or kidney stones. 
  2. Excessive body weight and unhealthy diet can lead to reducing the effectiveness of the organ leading to kidney stones.
  3. Underlying health conditions can also cause damage to the kidney, which can lead to kidney stones.

There are multiple causes of gallstones, such as:

  1. High levels of bilirubin can cause pigment gallstones in the bile duct or gallbladder.
  2. An excessive amount of bile juice in the gallbladder can become concentrated, resulting in the formation of stones.
  3. A high level of cholesterol is also one of the major causes of gallstones and results in the formation of yellow cholesterol stones. 

What are the Risk Factors Associated with Kidney Stones and Gall Stones?

Risk Factors for Kidney stones

  1. Dehydration is one of the major risk factors associated with kidney stones because less fluid in the body can cause a build-up of waste.
  2. Other medical conditions, like renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, etc., can also cause kidney stones.
  3. If someone in your family has had kidney stones, you also have the probability of getting one at some point in your life.
  4. Obesity or a sudden increase in your weight due to a health condition can also make your organs malfunction leading to kidney stones because of kidney damage.

 Risk Factors Associated with Gallstones

Some of the risk factors associated with the presence of gallstones in your body include the following:

  1. Medical Factors
    1. Taking medication to control cholesterol
    2. Taking medication for high oestrogen levels
  2. Natural Factors
    1. Genetically transferred gallstones because someone in the family has had them
    2. Being over the age of 60 years 
    3. Males are less prone to have gallstones in comparison to women
  3. Lifestyle Factors
    1. Being overweight and not exercising enough can be one of the major risk factors
    2. Sudden weight loss due to a medical health condition 
    3. Diet rich in cholesterol and fats can also be an associated risk
    4. Suffering from diabetes mellitus can also increase the risk of gallstones.

How to Treat Kidney stones and Gallstones?

Kidney Stones Treatment

Kidney stones can be treated in two ways, including natural methods as well as procedures.

Natural Methods

  1. Taking pain relievers can provide relief from the pain that is caused due to kidney stones. 
  2. Drinking water is also helpful as it can help in dissolving the stones and make them pass out of your body naturally.

Surgical Procedures for Kidney Stones

  1. Shock Wave Lithotripsy: In this procedure, shock waves are used to break kidney stones into small pieces. These small pieces then pass out from the urinary tract through your urine. 
  2. Ureteroscopy: This is another treatment option in which you are operated on under the influence of general anaesthesia. A long tube-shaped tool is inserted into your body to find the stones and then eliminate them. The doctor may also choose to find stones and break them into smaller pieces so that they can pass through your urinary tract.  
  3. Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy: In this treatment, kidney stones are removed by creating a passageway from the skin to the kidney. 


During the early stage of having gallstones, you may not feel any symptoms which might leave you unaware of your situation. However, when the size of the gallstones increases, it may cause some blockage in your gallbladder, which induces pain. This way, you may find out about the issue.

Gallstones are either removed with Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) if present in the bile duct or through cholecystectomy (removal of gallbladder) if the gallstones are present in the gallbladder itself.


How can Kidney Stones and Gallstones be prevented?

Prevention of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can be prevented by:

  1. Drinking enough water and ensuring there is enough fluid in your body throughout the day.
  2. It is also advisable to avoid food items with a high volume of calcium so that their composition might not cause stones in your kidney. 

Prevention of Gallstones

The formation of gallstones can be prevented in your body by:

  1. Maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle ensures that you stay healthy and the health of your organs also remains optimal.
  2. Make sure that if you lose weight or are in the process of gaining weight, you do it slowly and steadily and not abruptly by making sudden diet and lifestyle changes. 
  3. It is also important to avoid taking a high dose of birth control pills and oestrogen hormones. 


Even though both conditions are treatable, they can cause unbearable pain if left untreated. It is quite possible that kidney stones might leave your body naturally if they are small in size. However, in the case of gallstones and bigger kidney stones, surgery is the only option that works to provide relief. 

The surgeries for the removal of gallstones and kidney stones are quite safe and effective so there is nothing to be worried about. 


Updated on : Friday, 29 September 2023


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES
12 years experience


Charu Srivastava

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

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