Gallstones are hard deposits that form in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that sits under the liver. It stores bile, a fluid that helps the body digest fats.
Gallstones can be made up of cholesterol, bilirubin, or a combination of the two. Cholesterol gallstones are the most common type. They form when there is too much cholesterol in the bile. Bilirubin gallstones form when there is too much bilirubin in the bile. Bilirubin is a waste product that is created when red blood cells break down.
Gallstones can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor. Gallstones can be a serious condition, and they can lead to complications such as infection, inflammation of the pancreas, and bleeding.
There are a number of treatment options for gallstones. The best treatment option for you will depend on your individual situation.
If you have small gallstones that are not causing any symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medication to dissolve them. The most commonly prescribed medication for gallstones is ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). UDCA can take several months to dissolve gallstones, and it is not effective for everyone.
If you have large gallstones that are causing symptoms, or if your gallstones are causing complications, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder. The most common type of surgery for gallstones is laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a minimally invasive surgery that is performed through small incisions in the abdomen.
Making lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing gallstones. These changes include:
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and high in fiber
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding smoking
Gallstones are a common condition, but they can be treated. If you have gallstones, it is important to see a doctor to discuss the best treatment option for you.