Differentiating Kidney Stones from a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

It can be concerning to experience pain ‘down there’. Many questions of what could be causing the pain and discomfort run circles in your mind. Your first move might be calling your primary care doctor and declaring you have a UTI. Stop right there – the symptoms of UTIs and kidney stones can be similar, but treatment is very different. In this article, we will be discussing the similarities and differences between the two and when you should go see a doctor.

Woman in tee shirt and jeans grips abdomen in pain wondering if she has a kidney stone or UTI. Urologic Surgeons of Washington logo at top left.

Kidney Stone vs. UTI

Although the pain and symptoms of kidney stones and UTIs are similar, the conditions themselves are very different (though kidney stones can result from untreated UTIs). Kidney stones are crystalized deposits of minerals that your kidneys cannot dissolve. They solidify and grow to create a “stone” like object that can be very painful to pass. A UTI, on the other hand, is an infection in any part of the urinary system including the kidneys, bladder, or urethra.

Symptoms of kidney stones:

  • Sharp pain in back or side of abdomen
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Fluctuating intensity of pain
  • Cloudy or smelly urine
  • Urge to urinate

Symptoms of UTI:

  • Pain in bladder, groin, or lower abdomen
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pelvic pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Cloudy or smelly urine
  • Urge to urinate

As you can see, depending on their presentations, it can be rather difficult to decipher which condition you are experiencing. This is why you should avoid diagnosing yourself and seek the opinion of a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.


Although the symptoms of UTIs and kidney stones can be similar, how they are treated differ. UTIs are infections and require antibiotics for treatment. You should follow the instructions of your doctor or urologist closely and take the entire course of the prescription. Just because symptoms seem to lessen or disappear does not meant that the infection is fully treated. If you are a patient that has frequent UTIs, you should speak to an experienced urologist to understand what may be causing the infections.

As for kidney stones, it is possible for you to pass them without medicine or a procedure. Passing a kidney stone does often come with pain and discomfort, so your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to help. It is essential to stay well hydrated in order to dilute your urine and let the stone pass more easily. In the event that your kidney stone is too large to pass on its own, you may benefit from a minimally invasive procedure like Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) or ureteroscopy both of which are offered at Urologic Surgeons of Washington.

The Bottom Line

It can be difficult to tell whether you have a UTI or kidney stones, so you should always consult with an experienced urologist if you have symptoms. Both conditions are highly treatable with the correct care and attention. That said, you can take preventative measures by staying well hydrated.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a UTI or kidney stones, contact us today. USW has over 45 collective years of experience diagnosing, preventing, and treating urological conditions.

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