ABC Medical Center > Gallstones

What is Gallstones?

21:53 - 4 May , 2021


It is a pathology in which solid accumulations of bile are formed in the gallbladder, a small organ whose function is to release bile through the bile ducts to digest fats, but sometimes these ducts can be obstructed by the presence of these hardened substances.

Although the exact cause of gallstones is unknown, studies indicate that they often develop for the following reasons:

  • Excess cholesterol that can transform into crystals and later into stones.
  • High presence of bilirubin due to liver cirrhosis, bile duct infections, or some blood disorders.
  • Gallbladder difficulty emptying completely.

Older adults, women, and people who are overweight or obese are the most vulnerable groups, but other conditions can help gallstones form, such as:

  • Family background.
  • A high-fat, low-fiber diet.
  • Being over 40 years old.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Intake of oral contraceptives or hormone therapy medications.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Having liver disease or other conditions such as diabetes, anemia, or leukemia.
  • Rapid weight loss.

There are different types of gallstones depending on their origin, which can be tiny or similar in size to marbles or golf balls:

  • Cholesterol: they are the most common and usually have a yellow or amber hue.
  • Pigment: due to excess bilirubin, with a dark brown or black coloration.

Possible complications are:

  • Cholecystitis or inflammation of the gallbladder.
  • Obstructed common bile duct.
  • Obstructed pancreatic duct.
  • Gallbladder cancer.

Signs and symptoms Gallstones

Sometimes, gallstones may not cause symptoms, but if one lodges in a bile duct and blocks it, it causes the following:

  • Sudden severe abdominal pain in the upper right side.
  • Sharp pain under the sternum.
  • Sore back in the central area.
  • Sore right shoulder.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomit.

The crises usually occur after eating and the duration of the pain ranges from a few minutes to a few hours.

Possible risks:

If a gallstone blocks the pancreatic duct, it can inflame the pancreas and cause severe, constant abdominal pain that requires urgent hospitalization.

Diagnosis and treatment Gallstones

Once your doctor analyzes your symptoms and clinical history, he or she will perform a physical examination, blood tests, and various tests to define whether it is gallstones, such as abdominal and endoscopic ultrasound, oral cholecystography, hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scintigraphy, computed tomography, magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.

The indicated treatment, depending on the severity of the symptoms, usually includes:

  • Oral medications to dissolve gallstones, which can be extremely time-consuming and are generally recommended only for people who cannot have surgery.
  • Cholecystectomy, which is the most common treatment because the stones recur frequently, and removing the gallbladder does not interfere with the ability to digest food, since bile flows directly from the liver to the small intestine without being stored in the gallbladder.

At ABC Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Department, we offer health care services with the highest quality and safety, from the prevention, diagnosis, timely treatment, and monitoring of infectious, respiratory, endocrinological, dermatological, rheumatic, nephrological, gastrointestinal, and hematological pathologies of both chronic-degenerative diseases and acute conditions, through a comprehensive and multidisciplinary model.


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