They're pieces of solid material that form in the gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver. You might not even know you have them until they block a bile duct, causing pain that you need to get treated right away.
Types The two main kinds are: These are usually yellow-green in color. These stones are smaller and darker. They're made up of bilirubin, which comes from bile, a fluid your liver makes and your gallbladder stores. There may be several reasons, including: Your genes Problems with your gallbladder Diet Bile can be part of the problem.
Your body needs bile, but if it has too much cholesterol in it, that makes gallstones more likely. Am I at Risk? You're more likely to get gallstones if: This is one of the biggest risk factors. You take birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms, or are pregnant. It can increase cholesterol and make it harder for the gallbladder to empty. You take medicine to lower your cholesterol. Some of these drugs boost the amount of cholesterol in bile, which may increase your chances of getting cholesterol stones.
You lost weight too quickly. Your liver makes extra cholesterol, which may lead to gallstones. Your gallbladder may not squeeze as much. Gallstones are also more likely if they run in your family, and they're likelier among women, older people, and some ethnic groups, including Native Americans and Mexican-Americans.
Continued What Are the Symptoms? You might not notice anything, or even know you have gallstones, unless your doctor tells you. But if you do get symptoms, they usually include: You may also get: Blood tests to check for signs of infection or obstruction, and to rule out other conditions. Specialized X-rays allow your doctor to see inside your body, including your gallbladder.
This test uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio-wave energy to make pictures of the inside of your body, including the liver and the gallbladder. This test can check on whether the gallbladder squeezes correctly.
Doctors inject a harmless radioactive material, which makes its way to the organ. The technician can then watch its movement. This test combines ultrasound and endoscopy to look for gallstones. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography ERCP.
He can often then remove any gallstones that have moved into the ducts. Many people with gallstones get surgery to take out the gallbladder. There are two different kinds of operations. This is the more common procedure.
The surgeon passes instruments, a light, and a camera through several small cuts in the belly. He views the inside of the body on a video monitor. You usually go home the same day.
The surgeon makes bigger cuts in the belly to remove the gallbladder. You stay in the hospital for a few days after the operation. These drugs work by dissolving cholesterol stones. The downside of using either medication is that you may have to take it for years to completely dissolve the stones, which may come back after you stop taking the drug. American College of Surgeons.