Gallstones are deposits of digestive fluid that have solidified and develop in the gallbladder. Just below your liver on the right side of your abdomen is your gallbladder, a little, pear-shaped organ. Bile, a digestive fluid stored in the gallbladder, is released into your small intestine.
Gallstones can be as big as a golf ball or as small as a grain of sand. While some people only have one gallstone, others may experience multiple gallstones at once.
Gallstones are widespread in developed nations, affecting 20% of people over the age of 65 and 10% of adults. Only 20% of those with gallstones will require treatment.
Gallbladder removal surgery is typically necessary for people who have gallstone problems. Usually, gallstones don’t need to be treated if they don’t cause any symptoms or indicators.
Gallstones may not show any symptoms at all or may have the following symptoms as a result of a gallstone blocking a duct:
- Pain in the upper right abdominal region that develops suddenly and quickly
- Immediately below your breastbone, in the middle of your abdomen, there is a sharp, swiftly escalating pain.
- Pain in your back in the middle part of your shoulder blades
- Right shoulder pain
- Nausea or vomiting
Pain from gallstones may continue from a few minutes to several hours.
If you experience any signs or symptoms, schedule a visit with your doctor. However, if you manifest any symptoms of the gallstone complications, get immediate medical attention:
- High fever with chills
- You are unable to sit still or find a comfortable position due to excruciating abdominal pain.
- Yellowish discoloration of the white portion of the eyes and the skin (jaundice)
The exact reason gallstones form is unknown. Gallstones, according to doctors, may develop when:
- Excessive cholesterol in your bile. Usually, the bile in your body contains enough substances to break down the cholesterol your liver excretes. However, if your liver excretes more cholesterol than your bile can dissolve, the extra cholesterol may crystallize and finally become stones.
- Excessive bilirubin in your bile. The chemical bilirubin is created when your body destroys red blood cells. Your liver produces too much bilirubin under some circumstances, such as liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, and specific blood diseases. Gallstone development is influenced by the excess bilirubin.
- Dysfunctional emptying of the gallbladder. Bile may become extremely concentrated if your gallbladder doesn’t drain fully or frequently enough, which can lead to the development of gallstones.
Types of gallstones
The following types of gallstones can develop in the gallbladder:
- Pigment gallstones. When your bile has an excessive amount of bilirubin, these dark brown or black stones might develop.
- Cholesterol gallstones. A cholesterol gallstone, the most typical form of gallstone, is frequently yellow in color. These gallstones are primarily made of undissolved cholesterol, though they could also include other substances.
The following factors may raise your risk of gallstones:
- Gender: female
- Age: 40 years old or older
- Race: Native American or Hispanic of Mexican origin
- Obesity or being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High-fat, high-cholesterol, or low-fiber diet
- Family history of gallstones
- Liver disease
- Blood conditions like sickle cell anemia or leukemia
- Sudden weight loss
- Using estrogen-containing pharmaceuticals, such as oral contraceptives or hormone therapy medications.