Gallstones aren’t uncommon. They affect about 25 million Americans, so it’s natural to wonder if you’re at risk.
At Eastside Bariatric & General Surgery in Snellville, Georgia, Aliu Sanni, MD, FACS, and our team are experts in understanding your risk for gallstones and providing relief if you have them.
Gallstones develop when you have an imbalance in your bile composition. That results in hard stones that develop from crystallized cholesterol or pigment or both. Gallstones range in size and number and can form in your gallbladder or in your common bile duct.
The two types of gallstones are:
This type develops when your bile makes an excess of cholesterol and not enough bile salts. The stones can also form when your gallbladder doesn’t empty its contents properly.
You can have small ones the size of a grain of sand or large ones as big as a golf ball. You can also have one large stone or many smaller ones or a combination of both. The stones are usually yellowish-green.
These types of stones mostly develop in the gallbladder. Dr. Sanni can remove them with gallbladder surgery, if necessary.
This type of gallstone tends to develop in people who have cirrhosis of the liver, blood disorders, or biliary tract infections. These conditions cause too much bilirubin, which is what the stones are made of. They are usually dark brown or black.
Painful symptoms of gallstones
Most people have gallstones without any symptoms, but the stones can cause severe pain for others.
When gallstones move into your biliary tract, they create a blockage, which can produce a quick, sharp pain in your upper right or center part of your abdomen. The pain can be rather intense, lasting just a few minutes up to several hours.
You might also experience nausea, vomiting, pain in your right shoulder, or back pain between your shoulder blades.
Understanding your risk for gallstones
Though gallbladder disease can affect anyone, some people are more vulnerable. You might be more susceptible to developing gallstones if you’re:
- A woman
- Older than 60
- Native American or Mexican American
- A diabetic
- Taking certain medications
Your chance of having gallstones also increases if you have a family history of gallbladder issues.
How to prevent gallstones
The best way to decrease your risk for gallstones begins with your diet. Decreasing your fat intake keeps your bile cholesterol a liquid consistency, which eliminates gallstone formation.
You should eat good sources of fiber that include raw fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals, and cooked dried beans and peas. Drinking coffee may also reduce your risk.
If you have questions about gallstones or have concerning symptoms, schedule an appointment with Dr. Sanni by calling, texting, or requesting a visit online.