What Is the Difference Between Kidney Stones and Gallstones and How Do You Tell Them Apart?

There is a difference between kidney stones and gallstones.

The “stones” that grow in each are related to what each organ does for the body.

The gallbladder is a small sac that lies just below the liver. It holds bile that’s been produced by the liver, saving it until the stomach needs it to add a dollop of bile during digestion.

Sometimes the stuff that makes up bile—cholesterol, recycled red blood cell pigments, traces of calcium—clumps together and hardens into a solid.

Cholesterol is the leading ingredient in gallstones. When your body contains too much cholesterol, the excess can begin to form solid particles in places where you don’t want it.

In the gallbladder, these fatty, waxy clumps can be tiny and cause no problems at all.

However, they can also get as big as golf balls, completely blocking the duct that leads from the gallbladder to the stomach, requiring immediate medical attention.

Kidney stones are formed from the solids found in urine—primarily uric acid and calcium compounds. They can get up to the same size as gallstones, but tend to be smaller.

When kidney stones get large and solid enough to block the ureters, the tubes that lead down and into the bladder, medical attention is needed immediately so that waste products don’t back up in the kidneys.

What if you want to get your stones polished up and mounted on jewelry for a novelty?

Note that gallstones are usually brownish green in color and smooth, while kidney stones are usually brown or yellow, or a combination of the two; they can be jagged, sharp, or smooth, depending on how they formed.

Some kidney stones are quite striking in appearance, actually, —a nice mix of colors and interesting shapes.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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