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March 31, 2023 In Gallstone By Dr. Vikas Singhal

Gallstones: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More

Gallstones are solid deposits that form within the liver when the digestive fluid bile becomes chemically imbalanced. In recent years, there has been an increase in their prevalence among people. Gallstones are a significant risk factor for gallbladder cancer, which accounts for approximately 10% of all cancer cases globally. 

This article gives an overview of the causes, symptoms, suggested treatment, and/or surgery for gallbladder stones.

What Are Gallstones?

Gallstones develop in your gallbladder, a small, pear-shaped organ that stores bile in your body. Cholesterol, bilirubin, bile salts, and lecithin are all found in bile juice. Gallstones are typically composed of cholesterol or bilirubin accumulations at the end of the liver, which hardens to form “stones.”

Gallstones can range in size from a particle of sand to a golf ball. They grow gradually as bile washes over them, and they accumulate additional materials. Smaller stones, on the other hand, are more prone to cause problems. Smaller stones can move, whereas larger ones tend to remain put. Gallstones that move may become lodged somewhere and cause a blockage.

Also Read : Gallbladder Surgery: Cost, Benefits, Side Effects, And Success Rate

Causes Of Gallstones

Excess Cholesterol: Having too much cholesterol in your blood is the main cause of gallstones. Extra cholesterol can occur for a variety of causes. Metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes, are among the most prevalent causes.

High blood cholesterol levels result in increased cholesterol concentration in the bile. Before sending bile to your gallbladder, your liver filters cholesterol from your blood and stores it in bile as a waste product. Bile chemicals (lecithin and bileions) are thought to dissolve cholesterol. However, if there is an excess of it, these compounds may not be adequate.

Excess bilirubin: Instead of cholesterol, approximately 25% of gallstones are composed of excess bilirubin. Bilirubin is a result of the breakdown of red blood cells by your liver. 

Gallbladder stasis: A healthy gallbladder contracts to efficiently move bile out when required. However, if your gallbladder does not constrict properly, some bile may be left behind. With time, this bile changes into sludge at the end of the gallbladder, where it then crystallises.

Symptoms Of Gallstones

Most gallbladder stone patients have “silent stones,” which means they are undetectable for a long time. However, when gallstones signs appear, they can be agonising and painful. They may cause complications and long-term consequences such as gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis), gallbladder cancer, and infection.

The following are some cholelithiasis symptoms:

  • Biliary colic or dull discomfort in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen;
  • Intolerance to fatty meals; shoulder blade pain
  • Vomiting and nausea;
  • Flatulence or accumulation of gas in the stomach.
  • High fever and shivers;
  • Sweating

Also Read : Gallbladder Surgery Aftercare: How to Sleep After Gallbladder Surgery?

Gallbladder Stone Treatment

Treatment methods for gallstones may include:

  • Oral bile acids such as ursodiol and chenodiol are examples of conventional medicine.
  • A wait-and-see strategy
  • Non-surgical treatments include MTBE injections, ERCP, percutaneous cholecystostomy, and, in rare instances, shock wave lithotripsy to shatter large gallstones into small pieces
  • Surgery to remove the gallbladder. (cholecystectomy)

Surgical Techniques

If gallstones frequently recur, surgery to remove the gallbladder, known as cholecystectomy, may be suggested.

There are two kinds of cholecystectomy:

  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is widely used to treat gallstones.
  • When the gallbladder is severely infected, inflamed, or scarred from previous operations, an open cholecystectomy is suggested.

Also Read : What to Expect When You Have Robotic Gallbladder Surgery


Gallstones are common, and most individuals are unaffected by them. You will probably never know they are there if they remain in your gallbladder. However, once they start moving, they become dangerous. When these tiny, pebble-like pieces get into the tight spaces of your delicate biliary system, they can cause significant harm.

A gallbladder attack can be intense and frightening, particularly if you were unaware you had gallstones in the first place. It may be upsetting to learn that surgery is the suggested treatment. However, laparoscopic gallbladder removal is a common operation with a good prognosis. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are women more likely than males to develop gallstones?

Estrogen raises cholesterol, while progesterone reduces gallbladder spasms. Both hormones are particularly high during certain stages of your reproductive life, such as menstruation and pregnancy. When hormone levels begin to fall during menopause, many women use hormone therapy (HT) to replenish them, causing them to rise again.

What foods to avoid if one has gallstones?

If you have gallstones, you should avoid fatty foods, high-fat dairy items, and fatty meats. 

How is digestion affected if you no longer have a gallbladder?

Without a gallbladder, your digestive system can still function. Your gallbladder primarily serves as a reservoir for the bile produced by your liver. It transports bile to your small intestine to aid processing. When your gallbladder is removed, your bile ducts will be redirected so that bile flows straight from your liver to your small intestine.

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