Gallstones are calcified deposits of digestive fluid that can form in the gallbladder.
Signs and Symptoms
- Intense pain in the abdomen
- Back pain between the shoulder blades
- Pain in the right shoulder
- Nausea or vomiting
When to see the doctor?
Ask for a consultation with your doctor if you have signs or symptoms that worry you.
Visit the doctor immediately if you develop signs and symptoms of a serious gallstone complication, such as the following:
- Abdominal pain is so intense that you cannot stay seated or find a position that allows you to be more comfortable
- Yellowish color of the skin and in the whites of the eyes
- High fever with chills
It is not clear why gallstones form. Doctors believe that gallstones can occur when the following happens:
- Infection in the drainage system of the common bile duct
- Blocking the common bile duct
- Excess cholesterol in the gallbladder (may occur during pregnancy or after rapid weight loss)
- Decreased blood supply to the gallbladder due to diabetes
- Tumors in the liver or pancreas
- Tumor in the gallbladder
The factors that can increase the risk of gallstones are the following:
- Be 40 years old or older
- Being overweight or obese
- Be sedentary
- Be pregnant
- Follow a diet high in fat
- Follow a diet with a high cholesterol content
- Follow a diet low in fiber
- Have a family history of gallstones
- Being diabetic
- Losing weight quickly
- Having a liver disease
- Hepatobiliary imaging with iminodiacetic acid (HIDA)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).
- Blood test
Treatment and Management
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). Gallbladder removal is sometimes recommended if the gallstones are recurrent. Once the gallbladder is removed, the bile will flow directly from the liver to the small intestine, instead of being stored in your gallbladder.
- Medications to dissolve gallstones. The medicines you take orally can help you dissolve gallstones.