Here's What Causes Gallstones

If you’re experiencing unexplained pain in your abdomen, you may have gallstones, a common but potentially serious medical condition.

Gallstones are small, hard deposits that develop in your gallbladder, a small organ that is part of your digestive system. Gallstones get their name because they are hard and small, almost like tiny stones.

Gallstones affect about 10-15% of people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Because gallstones are so common, you should understand what they are, what causes them, and what symptoms to look for. Maria Palafox, MD, an experienced general surgeon in San Antonio, Texas, who treats gallstones shares this helpful information about gallstones.

What are gallstones?

Your body uses a substance known as bile to help digest food. Your liver produces bile, which is then stored in the gallbladder.

Gallstones form when deposits of bile or other substances crystalize and form pebble-like structures that block tubes in your gallbladder. Gallstones can be as tiny as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. You may develop one or many gallstones.

Gallstone symptoms

When gallstones form, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Causes of gallstones

Although anyone can develop gallstones, you are more likely to have them if you:

Your risk of getting gallstones may also go up if you frequently engage in cycles of rapid weight loss followed by weight gain.

Women are more likely than men to have gallstones, especially if they’ve had multiple pregnancies, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

Treating gallstones

If you have symptoms of gallstones, we may recommend medications or diet changes to see if your symptoms go away. Eating a diet that’s low in fat, high in fiber, and lower in sugar and refined carbohydrates may help. 

But when symptoms remain, you may need gallbladder surgery.

During gallbladder surgery, Dr. Palafox removes your gallbladder using either minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery or open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery, which is associated with less bleeding, quicker recuperation time, smaller scars, and fewer side effects, is best-suited to smaller gallstones. Larger stones may require open surgery.

Get help for your gallbladder symptoms

If you think you may have gallstones, don’t wait to have a medical evaluation. Left untreated, gallstones can lead to complications such as infection. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Palafox, call our office or use our quick messaging tool.

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