Understanding Gallstones: Symptoms and Treatments

Gallstones are hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder, a small organ under the liver that stores bile. These stones can vary in size and cause significant discomfort and complications if left untreated. Understanding the symptoms and treatments for gallstones is crucial for effective management and relief.

Dealing With Gallstones

Gallstones often do not cause symptoms and are discovered incidentally during imaging tests for other conditions. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Sudden, intense pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Pain after fatty meals
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Fever and chills

Gallstones form when there's an imbalance in the substances that make up bile, such as cholesterol and bilirubin. Certain things can increase your chance of dealing with gallstones. This can include:

  • Gender- Women are more likely to develop gallstones than men
  • Age- Risk increases after age 40
  • Obesity- Excess body weight can contribute
  • Diet- High-fat, high-cholesterol, and low-fiber diets
  • Family history- Genetics plays a role

Treatment is important to reduce any pain and remove gallstones. Medications such as ursodeoxycholic acid can help dissolve cholesterol gallstones, but this treatment can take months or even years and is not always effective. Often, your gastroenterologist may recommend extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. High-energy shock waves break gallstones into smaller pieces, making them easier to pass. This method is rarely used and typically for patients who cannot undergo surgery.

The most common and effective treatment for symptomatic gallstones is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. Your doctor may use a minimally invasive procedure that involves small incisions for a faster recovery time. In some cases, surgery with larger incisions may be needed.

Contact Our Gastroenterologist Today

Make sure you understand when you might be dealing with gallstones and how they can be treated. Contact your gastroenterologist to learn more and schedule your next appointment today.