Gallbladder and gallstones
Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can build up in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just below your liver. The gallbladder contains a digestive fluid called bile which is released into your small intestine.
Gallstones vary in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Some people develop only one gallstone while others develop multiple gallstones at the same time.
People who have symptoms of their gallstones usually need to have their gallbladder removed. Gallstones that don’t cause signs and symptoms usually don’t need treatment.
Gallstones should not cause any signs or symptoms.
When a gallstone becomes lodged in a duct and causes a blockage, the following symptoms and symptoms may occur :
- Sudden, rapidly increasing pain in the upper right part of your abdomen
- Sudden, rapidly intensifying pain in the center of your abdomen, just below your breastbone
- Back pain between the shoulder blades
- Right shoulder pain
- Nausea or vomiting
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Seek immediate medical attention if you develop signs and symptoms of a serious complication of gallstones, such as:
- Abdominal pain so severe that you cannot sit still or find a comfortable position
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- High fever with chills
Types of gallstones
The types of gallstones that can form in the gallbladder include:
- Cholesterol gallstones. The most common type of gallstones, called cholesterol gallstones, often appear yellow. These
- gallstones are mostly made up of undissolved cholesterol, but they can contain other components as well.
- Pigmentary gallstones. These dark brown or black stones form when your bile contains too much bilirubin.
Factors that can increase your risk for gallstones include:
- Be feminine
- Be 40 years of age or older
- Be Native American
- Be Hispanic of Mexican descent
- Being overweight or obese
- Be sitting
- To be pregnant
- Eat a high fat diet
- A diet high in cholesterol
- A low fiber diet
- Have a family history of gallstones
- Have diabetes
- Certain blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia or leukemia
- Lose weight very quickly
- Use of drugs that contain estrogen, such as birth control pills or hormonal drugs
- Have liver disease
You can reduce the risk of gallstones if you:
- Don’t skip meals. Try to stick to your usual meal times each day. Skipping meals or fasting can increase the risk of gallstones.
- Lose weight slowly. If you need to lose weight, take it easy. Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of gallstones. Try to lose 1 or 2 pounds (about 0.5 to 1 kilogram) per week.
- Eat more foods rich in fiber. Include more foods high in fiber like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight and overweight increases the risk of gallstones. Work towards a healthy weight by reducing the number of calories you eat and increasing the amount of physical activity you do. Once you’ve reached a healthy weight, work on maintaining that weight by eating a healthy diet and exercising.
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