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Kidney Stones vs UTI

Kidney Stones vs UTI – Difference

There are some conditions that cause similar symptoms, and because of that we often get confused about exactly which one we are suffering from. When you experience symptoms like pain during urination and stabbing pain in the back and side of the abdomen, one of two things might be causing these symptoms. It may be due to a urinary tract infection, in which the urinary tract gets infected by bacteria or it can be kidney stones which is the formation of hard stones made up of minerals and salts, inside your kidney. While the two may exhibit the same symptoms it’s important to distinguish between kidney stones vs UTI, in order to adhere to the right treatment plan.

In this article, we’ll do an in-depth analysis of kidney stones vs UTIs on the basis of their symptoms, causes, and treatment. 

Kidney Stones vs UTI. What Is The Difference?

As we mentioned earlier these two conditions might exhibit the same symptoms but there are some key differences between them. Kidney stones happen when there is a development of hard deposits in the kidney, made up of minerals and salts in the urine. A urinary tract infection occurs when there is an infection in the urinary tract that affects the urinary tract, bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys as well. 

There are both extremely prevalent kidney diseases. About 1 in 10 people get kidney stones once in their lifetime and an estimated 150 million people get UTI every year. Kidney stones are more common in men whilst UTIs mostly occur in women. Kidney stones in women are relatively less common. 

Kidney stones can happen due to dehydration, obesity, digestive disease, a diet high in protein, salt, and glucose, and even genetics can play a role in a susceptible you are to getting kidney stones. UTI occurs lack of personal hygiene, urinary obstruction, sexual activities, advanced age, menopause. There are a number of other differences that describe kidney stones vs UTI, we would cover more of those in this article.

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stone is the formation of solid masses made up of salt and minerals in the urine. Kidney stones feel like small grains.  They form inside the kidney and can affect any part of the urinary tract. There are multiple types of kidney stones like struvite stones, cystine stones, calcium stones, uric acid stones, or xanthine stones. The type normally depends on the cause of the stone and what type of mineral led to its formation of it. Kidney stones do not cause any permanent damage given if they are treated quickly but they can cause stabbing pain in the kidneys. The kidney hurt makes this condition an extremely painful one. 

What is UTI?

A urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection that affects the urinary tract including the kidney, bladder urethra, and ureters. The urinary tract’s basic function is to pass urine and expel waste from the body. It mostly affects the lower part of the tract which includes the bladder and the urethra. If it affects the upper tract which means a kidney infection or an infection in the ureters, the symptoms of UTI would be much more severe and painful and it can lead to serious damage and even be life-threatening if the kidney infection symptoms lead to kidney failure. UTI pain areas can include the entire urinary tract depending on where in the tract the infection exists. 

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

The common symptoms of kidney stones are as follows: 

Symptoms of UTIs

The symptoms of UTI are very much similar to the symptoms of kidney stones. They are mostly dependent on where in the urinary tract the bacterial infection exists: 

  • Smelly urine
  • Women may experience pelvic pain
  • Men may experience pain in the rectum
  • Urine can be pink or red
  • Pain while passing urine and passing on a minimal amount
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Back and side pain if the infection spread to the kidney
  • Fever and chills if the infection has spread or started in the upper tract
  • Nausea and vomiting

Kidney Stones Causes

Kidney stones are caused when the urine in your body contains more stone-forming substances like calcium, uric acid, and oxalate. These types of substances are hard for the fluid in your urine to dilute. You may also lack substances like inhibitors that stop undiluted substances from sticking together. This creates an ideal environment for the stones to be formed. The most common types of stones are calcium and oxalate stones. 

UTI Causes

A urinary tract infection is caused once bacteria enters the urinary tract. It can enter via the tubes that carry the urine out of the body. These bacteria usually come from the gut in the body. Women are more likely to get a urinary tract infection whilst men are more likely to get an infection in the upper tract. Women are more likely to get an infection in their lower tract mainly because they have shorter urethra. UTI can last up to 24 to 48 hours but if UTI is left untreated it can last up to a week or so. 

How to Prevent Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are normally caused by a lack of fluids as heavy substances like calcium and oxalate can’t be diluted if there is not enough fluid. So the main thing a person should do to prevent kidney stones from forming is drunk plenty of water and avoid things that can absorb water like salt. Stay hydrated and avoid drinks that can be harmful like fizzy drinks and energy drinks (these contain a lot of sugar, which is hard to dilute). In case you have a kidney stone, you may be given medications for the pain and would be asked to drink plenty of fluids to pass the kidney stone.

How to Prevent UTIs

Urinary tract infections are caused by bad hygiene normally. They are more common in females because females are more exposed to hygiene products like sanitary pads and diaphragms (to prevent pregnancy). Women must take care of their vaginal health to prevent UTIs. They must avoid using irritating feminine products and use a birth control method that is healthy for their urinary tract health. They must practice safe sex and urinate after intercourse to expel any bacterias that may have entered the body. Drinking plenty of water is important to prevent UTIs as well. Cranberry juice is also said to relieve the pain caused by UTIs.

UTI occurs in the upper tract of the men normally. The symptoms of UTI in men are generally severe. UTI can cause vomiting and headache if the condition gets worse. For men, it is essential that they drink fluids and avoid the consumption of harmful substances like alcohol or tobacco via smoking. 

Let us help you

By now you might have understood what kidney stones vs UTI actually means. Distinguishing between the two is important but it may be difficult to do because they both exhibit almost exactly the same symptoms. Consult our board-certified primary care physicians in order to receive an accurate diagnosis of what kind of kidney disease you may have and to know what you can do to treat the condition.

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 10/18/2021

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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