Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that develop in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a pear-shaped sac located below your liver in the right upper abdomen. Bile helps the body digest fats. It is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
Gallstones form when liquid, called bile, stored in the gallbladder crystallizes into stones. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder can develop just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or a combination of the two.
Gallstones form when bile contains too much cholesterol, too much yellow pigment bilirubin, or not enough bile salts, or when the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough. The reason these imbalances occur is not known.
People at risk for gallstones include
If gallstones move into the bile ducts and create blockage, pressure increases in the gallbladder and one or more symptoms may occur. This often follows fatty meals, and it may occur during the night. A typical attack (biliary colic) can cause severe pain in the right upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours and may be associated with nausea and vomiting
If you have gallstones without symptoms, you do not require treatment. People with any of the following symptoms should see a doctor immediately:
Most people with gallstones have no symptoms; these gallstones are called “silent stones.” They do not interfere with gallbladder, liver, or pancreas function and do not need treatment.
Gallstones are discovered during tests for other health conditions.
If you are having frequent attacks of pain, your doctor will likely recommend you have your gallbladder removed by operation called laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
The gallbladder is an organ people can live without. Your liver produces enough bile to digest a normal diet. Once the gallbladder is removed, bile flows out of the liver through the bile ducts into the small intestine, instead of being stored in the gallbladder.
Find out more information on Gallstones symptoms and treatment and at Andrea's Digestive Clinic.