What Are Gallstones?

Gallstones are one of the most frequent and costly diseases, known as cholelithiasis. Gallstones are hard, rigid particles found in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is an organ located in the abdominal cavity on the right side of the body. The gallstones are formed by the chemical reactions of digestive fluid.

The primary function of the gallbladder is the storage of bile.  Most types of gallstones have little to no symptoms, but in the case of an infection, gallstones can lead to severe health complications. This critical condition can become life-threatening.

Gallstones are extremely common, affecting 10% to 15% of Americans (nearly 25 million individuals).

Gallbladder Gallstone

Clinical Signs and Symptoms

The clinical signs and symptoms of gallstones depend upon various factors. The signs and symptoms are separated into two categories: prominent or asymptomatic. People are usually unaware of gallstones in the gallbladder, and it typically reflects the asymptomatic condition.

a. Pain in the Abdominal Cavity – In the symptomatic state, people have severe painful experiences. They experience intense pain in their abdominal cavity. This pain may prolong from several minutes to several hours. This painful experience may turn into a sudden headache which is followed by nausea, vomiting, and digestive problems.

b. Size – The size of a gallstone depends upon the clinical health condition and age of the patient. Generally, the size of gallstone ranges from a small particle to a wheat grain or kidney bean. Several factors depend upon the growth of gallstones. It has been noted that in certain individuals the gallstones have shown rapid progression as compared to other individuals.

c. Causes – There are various causes of gallstones such as if the digestive fluid contains a high concentration of cholesterol. As a clinical condition, the liver secretes an elevated amount of digestive fluid which is rich in cholesterol and the digestive fluid, bile is not capable of dissolving it.

Furthermore, instead of the cholesterol, the digestive fluid contains a high concentration of bilirubin which may be an alarming sign of various health complications such as liver cirrhosis, jaundice, and biliary tract infections.

Types of Gallstones

  • Cholesterol Gallstones

Cholesterol gallstone is one of the most common types of gallstone found in the gallbladder. The appearance of cholesterol gallstone is yellowish in color.  These types of gallstones are mainly composed of non-dissolved cholesterol in their chemical composition.

  • Pigment Gallstones

The pigment gallstone is the second common type of gallstone formed in the gallbladder. The physical appearance of pigment gallstone is dark brown in color. In several cases when patients have elevated amounts of bilirubin, the gallstones are black in color.

5 Risk Factors for Cholelithiasis

The 5-F rule is used to determine the 5 risk factors that lead to the development of cholelithiasis in the event of upper abdominal pain. Particular groups of individuals have a higher chance of developing the disease than other individuals.1

  • Fair: more prevalent in the Caucasian population
  • Fat: BMI>30
  • Female
  • Fertile: one or more children
  • Forty: age ≥40

Who is More Prone to Gallstones

  • Girls who have additional estrogen in the body because of pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, or birth control pills might be more inclined to produce symptoms.
  • People who have a family history of allergies possess a higher risk.
  • Mexican Americans are at higher risk of developing gallstones.
  • American Indians have genes that increase the quantity of cholesterol in their own bile, also possess the maximum rate of gallstones in America.

Individuals With Specific Health Conditions

You are more likely at risk of developing gallstones if you have got one of these health issues:

  • Liver cirrhosis, a state where your liver gradually breaks down and ceases functioning because of chronic, or long-term, harm
  • Infections from the bile ducts, which could also be a complication of infection
  • Hemolytic anemias, states where red blood cells are always broken down, for example, sickle cell anemia
  • Some autoimmune ailments that influence ordinary ingestion of nutrients, like Crohn’s disease
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome, which could also increase the possibility of gallstone complications
  • Diabetes and insulin resistance

Gallstones Diagnosis

As far as the diagnosis of gallstone is concerned, there are several diagnostic methods by which the diagnosis of gallstones can be confirmed.

  • Ultrasound

The doctor might ask for an abdominal ultrasound if there is no clear evidence then the physician might ask for computerized tomography scanning of the stomach for the confirmation of gallstones. An ultrasound generates images of your stomach. It is the preferred imaging system to affirm you have gallstone disease. Additionally, it may show abnormalities related to acute cholecystitis.

  • Gallbladder Scan

The gallbladder scan takes approximately an hour to finish. An expert injects radioactive material into your veins. The substance travels through your bloodstream into the liver and gallbladder. It may show signs to suggest disease or congestion of the bile ducts.

  • Blood Tests

The doctor might suggest specific hematological and biochemistry tests to evaluate the health status by looking at the lab findings. The primary purpose of these blood tests is to confirm that the patient is free from any severe infection or chronic diseases.

Prevention of Gallstones

  • Balance and Proper Diet

The most important thing is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet. It is highly recommended to avoid following intermittent fasting or skipping meals. Always follow the instructions for living healthy and fit. Whenever you don’t eat for a very long time period, or you shed weight fast, your liver releases additional oxygen into the stomach.

Quick weight loss may also stop the gallbladder from draining correctly. Very low-fat diets and weight loss surgery can lead to rapid weight reduction and a higher risk of overeating.

  • Weight Loss

If you are obese then you are at the risk of many diseases including cardiovascular disease. If you want to lose weight in an unhealthy way, then it might be riskier for you and may result in severe health complications. People who choose extreme calorie restriction diets and fasting methods are at the high risk of developing gallstones. You can lose weight more safely and comfortably by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Scientists have discovered that those who are obese might have higher amounts of cholesterol in their own bile, which can lead to gallstones. Individuals who have obesity might also have significant chances of developing gallstones. Some studies have proven that individuals who take considerable quantities of fat in their waist might be more likely to develop gallstones than people who have fat around their thighs and hips.

  • A Lower BMI

Those who are overweight are at higher risk of developing gallstones in their bladder. To prevent developing gallstones, they must consider adaptations in their lives. Participating in some sports or physical activity, proper food with proper sleep, and exercise for burning extra calories. Once you reach a healthy weight, work to maintain that weight by continuing your healthy diet, and continuing to exercise.

Shedding weight at a slow pace can make it less probable you will develop over-eating problems in the future. For overweight individuals who also have hypertension, experts recommend starting with a weight reduction program over a span of weeks. Additionally, weight loss can bring you additional health benefits.


  • Inflammation of Gallbladder

Inflammation is the most common health complication associated with gallstones. The gallstone causes the inflammation of the gallbladder. In clinical terminologies, this condition is referred to as cholecystitis. This can lead to extreme pain followed by fever.

  • Obstruction of the Bile Duct

Any obstruction of the bile duct can lead to severe health complications. Usually, the gallstones are responsible for the obstruction of the bile duct. As the size of gallstone varies, so any small gallstone is capable of blocking the duct and resulting in a severe health problem. This condition may progress to jaundice and infection of the bile duct.

  • Inflammation of Pancreas

The inflammation of the pancreas is usually experienced when a gallstone blocks the pancreatic duct and causes inflammation of the pancreas. This clinical condition is often referred to as pancreatitis. It is a painful condition, and due to the seriousness of the state, the patient might require hospitalization.

Bilirubin is a chemical produced in your liver that destroys old blood cells. Some circumstances, like liver damage and specific blood disorders, can make your liver create more bilirubin.

Treatment Options for Gallstones

Many individuals who have developed gallstones that do not cause symptoms would not ever require any therapy. The doctor will ascertain when treatment for gallstones is indicated according to your symptoms and the effects of diagnostic screening. The physician may recommend you become alert to signs of gallstone complications, like intensifying pain in your upper abdomen.

  • Medication

Some medications can help dissolve gallstones. But it might take weeks or years of treatment for the break up of your gallstones in such a manner and cholelithiasis will probably form again when therapy is ceased. Sometimes medications do not work. Medicines for gallstones are not commonly used and therefore are chosen specifically for those who can not undergo surgery. Speak with your doctor to find medications for you.

  • Surgery

The doctor might recommend the surgical removal of the gallbladder to get rid of gallstones. As soon as the gallbladder is surgically removed the digestive fluid or bile starts flowing into the liver rather than storing in the stomach. The gallbladder removal does not impact the ability to digest foods, but nevertheless, it might result in diarrhea, which is generally temporary.

Gallbladder Removal After Gastric Sleeve - Mexico Bariatric Center.jpg

Gallbladder Disease and Weight Loss Surgery

The relationship between the gallbladder and gastric sleeve is ironic. The high-calorie diet consumed by obese people results in fat and cholesterol build-up and puts a burden on many organs including gallbladder and liver.

Bariatric operations like gastric sleeve surgery help obese and overweight individuals lose weight – therefore relieve their underlying medical conditions, such as gallbladder problems. However, the rapid weight loss experienced by patients undergone bariatrics can cause the formation of gallstones.

Studies suggest that weight loss surgery patients have 30% to 40% risk of developing symptomatic gallstone disease within the first year after the operation.

Some procedures that are at higher risk for gallstones are duodenal switch surgery, gastric bypass surgery, and gastric sleeve surgery.

In some cases, patients or Mexico Bariatric surgeons prefer removing the gallbladder during weight loss surgery to prevent gallstones in the future. If a patient wants their gallbladder removed during weight loss surgery, surgeons may not remove it if it is in perfect health.

Related: Gallstones After Weight Loss Surgery