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Dr. Sujeet Jha

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About Gallstones

Gallstones are typically referred to hard particles that are produced from bile cholesterol and bilirubin in the gallbladder. Gallbladder refers to a saclike organ located in the upper right region of the abdomen. It is fixed beneath the liver and right below the front rib cage on the right side.

There are primarily two types of gallstones –

1) Cholesterol gallstones and

2) Pigment stones.

  • The occurrence of cholesterol stones is pretty much common in people of all types. This stone is formed when there is too much cholesterol content in the bile.
  • On the other hand, pigment stones are the result of excessive amounts of bilirubin in the bile.
The size of gallstones can vary from the size of a sand grain to as large as a golf ball. In most of the cases, small stones are found in the gallbladder however, sizes can increase over a period of time.
If these stones are of an extremely small size, they may take the form of a sludge or slurry.
Whether gallstones source symptoms depends partially on their size and their quantity, though no mix of number and size can forecast whether symptoms will occur or the extremity of the symptoms.
Gallstones formed within the gallbladder generally cause no problems. If there are large in number or have a larger size, they may cause pain when the gallbladder reacts to a fatty meal. They also may cause issues if they restrict bile from leaving the gallbladder or move out of the gallbladder and hunk the bile duct.
Gallstones are found to be highly common among obese, middle-aged women, but the aging and men are more probably to experience more grave complications from gallstones.


Gallstones generally make their presence felt by causing pain in the upper right abdomen. One may start experiencing gallbladder pain at various intervals after eating foods that are high in fat, such as fried foods. The pain doesn’t typically last more than a few hours.
Other symptoms of gallstones can be:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Stomach pain
  • Burping
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion

These symptoms are also called biliary colic. 

  • Asymptomatic gallstones: - Gallstones don’t cause pain on their own. Instead, pain emerges out when the gallstones wedge the drive of bile from the gallbladder.
Possible complications and risk
  • Acute cholecystitis: - When a gallstone hinders the duct where bile goes from the gallbladder, it can lead to inflammation and infection in the gallbladder. This is called acute cholecystitis. It is a medical emergency.
The peril of developing acute cholecystitis from symptomatic gallstones is around 1 to 3 percent.
Symptoms linked to acute cholecystitis include:
  • Intense pain in the upper stomach or mid-right back
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
Consult a doctor immediately if these symptoms don’t subside after 1 to 2 hours or if you encounter a fever.
Other problems
Unprocessed gallstones may lead to complications such as:
  • Jaundice, a yellowish hue to skin or eyes
  • Cholecystitis, a gallbladder infection
  • Cholangitis, a bile duct infection
  • Sepsis, a blood infection
  • Pancreas inflammation
  • Gallbladder cancer
According to the latest research, not less than 80% of the gallstones are made due to high levels of cholesterol. The remaining ones are made of calcium and bilirubin. 
It is generally said that having excessive amounts of cholesterol in your bile can cause the formation of gallstones in the gallbladder. Similarly, if there is more amount of bilirubin, this occurs. Pregnant women are found to be at greater risk of developing gallstones. 

Risk factors for gallstones

A majority of risk factors for gallstones are linked to diet, while some factors are irrepressible. Uncontainable risk factors include age, race, gender, and family history, which can’t be modified.
Lifestyle risk factors
  • Heaving excessive body weight
  • Eating a high-fat diet or a diet low in fiber
  • Encountered rapid weight loss 
  • Having diabetes
Uncontrollable risk factors
  • Female
  • Having a family history of gallstones
  • Of age 60 or more
Medical risk factors
  • Cirrhosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Taking specific medicines to lower cholesterol levels
  • Taking medicines with high estrogen
In most of the cases, people don’t need any kind of treatment for gallstones unless it causes a lot of pain. Sometimes one can pass gallstones without even recognizing. If you’re in pain, a doctor will likely to prefer surgery. In uncommon cases, medication may be prescribed.
If you’re at high risk for surgery difficulties, a drainage tube may be put into the gallbladder through the skin. The surgery may be delayed until your risk is reduced by treating your other medical conditions.
Making certain lifestyle changes could make you less prone to having gallstones such as:
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avert quick weight loss.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Do regular exercise.
  • Take supplements as mentioned by your doctor.
Some nutritional supplements can also be taken that may include vitamin C, iron, and lecithin. One study revealed that vitamin C and lecithin can reduce the risk of gallstones. Consult with your doctor about the right dosage of these supplements.
A doctor may come across the need to conduct a laparoscopic gallbladder removal. This is a commonly performed surgery that is done by sedating the person under general anesthesia. The surgeon will generally make 3 or 4 incisions in your abdomen. They’ll then put a small, lighted device into one of the incisions and cautiously remove your gallbladder.
One may face loose or watery stools after the removal of the gallbladder. Removing a gallbladder involves redirecting the bile from the liver to the small intestine. Bile no longer passes through the gallbladder and it gets less concentrated. The outcome is a laxative effect that leads to diarrhea. To come over this, it is recommended to take a diet lower in fats so as to produce less bile.


Treatments for Gallstones


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