Gallstones (gall bladder stones) are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder. Gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid called bile that’s released into your small intestine.
Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people develop just one gallstone, while others develop many gallstones at the same time.
Gallstones are common around the world. People who experience symptoms from their gallstones usually require gallbladder removal surgery. Gallstones that don’t cause any signs and symptoms typically don’t need treatment.
Causes of Gall bladder stones
It’s unclear what causes gallstones to form. Gastroenterologists think gallstones may result when:
- Your bile contains too much cholesterol: Normally, your bile contains enough chemicals to dissolve the cholesterol released by your liver. But if your liver releases more cholesterol than your bile can dissolve, the excess cholesterol may form into crystals and eventually into stones.
- Your bile contains too much bilirubin: Bilirubin is a chemical that’s produced when your body breaks down red blood cells. Certain conditions cause your liver to make too much bilirubin, including liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infections and certain blood disorders. The excess bilirubin contributes to gallstone formation.
- Your gallbladder doesn't empty correctly: If your gallbladder doesn't empty completely or often enough, bile may become very concentrated and this contributes to the formation of gallstones.
Gallstones may cause no signs or symptoms. If a gallstone lodges in a duct and causes a blockage, signs and symptoms may result, such as:
- Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen
- Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the centre of your abdomen, just below your breastbone
- Back pain between your shoulder blades
- Pain in your right shoulder
may last several minutes to a few hours.
Gallstones that don’t cause signs and symptoms, such as those detected during an ultrasound or CT scan done for some other condition, typically don’t require treatment. Treatment for gallstones that cause signs and symptoms include:
Prevention of Gall bladder stones
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder (Cholecystectomy): Your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder, since gallstones frequently recur. Once your gallbladder is removed, bile flows directly from your liver into your small intestine, rather than being stored in your gallbladder. You don’t need your gallbladder to live, and gallbladder removal doesn’t affect your ability to digest food, but it can cause diarrhoea, which is usually temporary.
- Medications to dissolve gallstones: Medications you take by mouth may help dissolve gallstones. But it may take months or years of treatment to dissolve your gallstones in this way. Sometimes medications don’t work. Medications for gallstones aren’t commonly used and are reserved for people who can’t undergo surgery.
You can reduce your risk of gallstones
- Don’t skip meals
- Lose weight slowly
- Maintain a healthy weight