GI Problems FAQs

Gallstones


What are gallstones?

Gallstones typically form within the gallbladder though some stones can form within other areas of the biliary tract.  Gallstones are lumps of hardened, concentrated bile that contain cholesterol, bile pigments bile salts, calcium salts and/or excretory elements from the breakdown of toxins and other chemicals. 

 When the bile crystallizes, it forms into one big stone or a few smaller stones that block the ducts that carries bile from your gallbladder.

 What are the symptoms of gallstones?

The most common symptom is severe pain in the upper abdomen or on the right side under the ribs lasting more than three hours.  Other symptoms may include vomiting, nausea or jaundice.   Usually the pain is triggered from greasy, fatty or starchy foods.

 What causes gallstones?

Gallstones are caused by chemical imbalances from cholesterol in the bile.  These imbalances are usually a result of poor diet, excessive drugs, rapid changes in weight or an unhealthy liver.

 How do I know if I have gallstones?

Gallstones can exist quietly in the gallbladder for many years, but are also capable of causing severe abdominal pain.  The pain can also spread to the back, shoulders and the neck.  Ultrasound testing can be used to confirm the presence of gallstones.

 How does the gallbladder hold gallstones?

The gallbladder can actually hold up to thousands of small stones.

 How are gallstones treated?

If you have multiple gallstones or experience frequent attacks your physician may recommend gallbladder removal.

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