Kidney stones vs gallbladder stones: How their symptoms can be confusing

45-year-old Sushant Shukla experienced severe pain in the abdomen. He was told it might be due to kidney stones and on investigation it was found that it was actually gallbladder stones. The symptoms of the two can be quite confusing for people, unless they have a proper diagnosis.
Dr. Anant Kumar, Chairman – Urology, Renal Transplant and Robotics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket shares, “Kidney stone pain can be easily mistaken for gallbladder stone as both can cause stomach discomfort and share other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and fever. Both stones can be as small as a grain of sand, or much larger impairing some important bodily functions. Gallbladder pain usually occurs in the right upper abdomen, whereas kidney stone pain can occur on both sides of the flank.” Both kidney stones and gallbladder stones can stop the flow of fluids in your body. They can cause immense pain and discomfort which alters your day to day life. It may also require hospitalization or even surgery to remove them.

While gallbladder stones are made up of cholesterol, kidney stones are made up of calcium salts. When the body excretes more cholesterol in bile, it gets deposited in the gallbladder and forms crystals and stones. When excess calcium gets deposited in the kidney, it forms stones, explains Dr Sachin Mittal, Senior Consultant, Dept. Of General Surgery, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad. Kidney stones and gallbladder stones are commonly prevalent. Kidney stones are more common in incidence than gallbladder stones. In fact, gall bladder stones are more common in females and in north India, he further adds.
Dr. Soumyan Dey, Consultant, Urology and Urooncology, MS General surgery, M. Ch Urology, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Navi Mumbai further adds, “Despite their differences, kidney and gallbladder stones share some similarities. Both are formed due to an accumulation of substances that the body needs to eliminate. Both the conditions can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, and may require medical intervention for treatment. Both kidney and gallbladder stones can also lead to complications, such as infection, inflammation, or blockage of the urinary or biliary tract.”

Symptoms of gallbladder stones

Pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen.
Back pain between your shoulder blades.
Nausea or vomiting.

Symptoms of kidney stones

Flank or back pain usually radiates to the groin.
Pain that is associated with nausea or Vomiting.
Blood in urine.
Fever and chills.
Foul smelling or cloudy urine.
Burning micturition
Kidney dysfunction.

How to protect yourself

Dr Mittal shares some measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting gallstones. “People should exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid fatty foods. Once diagnosed, they should go for laparoscopic surgery to avoid complications.” As for kidney stones, he recommends people to drink 4 liters of water per day to reduce their salt intake. Moreover, stones less than 5 mm can pass spontaneously and stones bigger than 5 mm may require surgical intervention.

The right diagnosis

Both kidney and gallbladder stones usually come to light when sonography is performed for a patient suffering from pain in the abdomen. The diagnosis involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, medical history, and imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scans, and X-rays. In some cases, urine and blood tests may also be necessary to determine the underlying cause of the stone formation, suggests Dr Soumyan. “It’s essential to understand that kidney and gallbladder stones are treatable conditions, and prompt medical attention can help alleviate the symptoms and prevent complications. Maintaining good hydration and a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also help reduce the risk of stone formation. Many times gallbladder stones, especially large solitary ones and normal gallbladder wall thickness on sonography can be left untreated, if asymptomatic. Very small kidney stones especially less than 5 mm do not require any complex treatment other than the increase in fluid intake, most of the time, patients will pass them spontaneously. Regular medical check-ups can help in early detection.”

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