Kidney Stones Gallstones How One Can Differentiate Between Kidney Stones Gallstones Treatment Options

    By Dr Ankit Sharma

    In the human body, the kidney is an important organ. Urine is produced by filtering waste and harmful substances from the blood. The functioning of the liver and the gallbladder are closely associated. To help in food digestion, the bile released by the liver is transported to the gallbladder, where the juice is stored. The food and beverages we consume can cause stones to form in both the kidneys and the gallbladder. 

    The stone can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Also, both conditions cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, restlessness, fever, chills, discomfort under the ribs, and pain between the shoulder blades. However, they differ from each other in many ways.

    It is important to understand the difference between the two for a correct diagnosis and effective treatment. These conditions are caused by improper dietary habits, genetic factors, and an unhealthy lifestyle. 

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    What are gallstones?

    Gallstones are formed in the gallbladder, which is a small organ located beneath the liver. These are developed when substances like cholesterol or bilirubin become concentrated in bile. Gallstones are divided into two types based on their formation: cholesterol stones, which are the most common, and pigment stones, which are made of bilirubin. Generally, symptoms of gallstones include intense pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting.

    Gallstones vary based on severity. Some people do not experience any symptoms and do not even require any treatment. However, when a stone blocks the bile duct, it causes severe pain and complications such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and cholangitis (infection of the bile ducts).

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    Treatment for gallstones 

    Gallstone treatment depends on their severity and the complication. Some common treatments include medications and surgery. 

    Although medications have been tried, surgery remains the treatment of choice. Surgery for gallstones is most commonly performed through keyhole/laparoscopic surgery and can be performed with the aid of robotic systems in anticipated difficult cases.

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    What are kidney stones?

    Kidney stones are deposits made of minerals and salts in the kidneys. They are formed when the urine is concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallise. Some common types of kidney stones are calcium stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones. 

    Symptoms of kidney stones include severe pain in the side and back, pain during urination, blood in the urine, and frequent urination.

    Kidney stones vary based on severity. Small stones ideally pass through the urinary tract. However, larger stones obstruct the flow of urine and cause pain, leading to complications like infection, kidney damage and kidney failure. 

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    Treatment for kidney stones

    Treatment for kidney stones varies based on their size and type. Some common treatments include hydration, medication, and surgery.

    • Hydration: increase in fluid intake to help in passing small stones.
    • Medication: Pain relievers are recommended to relax the ureter.
    • Surgical intervention: This is required for larger stones. Surgical interventions include ureteroscopy/ureterorenoscopy (the removal of stones using a small scope), percutaneous nephrolithotomy, laparoscopic surgery and shock wave lithotripsy (using sound waves to break up stones).

    While gallstones and kidney stones involve the formation of particles, they differ based on location, symptoms, severity, and treatment. 

    To effectively manage both conditions, it is necessary to diagnose them early and start appropriate treatment.  If a person experiences any of the symptoms, it is important to consult the doctor immediately. 

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    (The author is a consultant in urology at Manipal Hospital, Kharadi, Pune).

    [Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is for general guidance only. Individual results may vary. It is important to consult a healthcare professional, who knows your body type and medical history, before implementing the suggestions and information provided herein].

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