Gallstones are hardened deposits of digested fluid known as bile. These deposits form in the gallbladder, a small, pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver. The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver and then releases it into the small intestine as needed. Bile also carries waste such as cholesterol and bilirubin, which your body makes when it breaks down red blood cells. These processes can occasionally cause gallstones, which can lodge in a bile duct and cause a blockage. Some people develop one gallstone, while others can develop many gallstones at once.
Gallstones may range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. They can be broken down into two types:
It is not clear what exactly causes gallstones to form, but they might happen when:
Risk factors for developing gallstones may include:
While most gallstones are asymptomatic, symptoms can include nausea, fever, jaundice, and dark urine.
Typically, however, symptoms only present when gallstones cause a blockage in a bile duct. When a blockage occurs, symptoms may include:
The pain may last anywhere from several minutes to several hours.
In many cases, gallstones are discovered by accident when an individual is being treated for a different condition. Imaging tests such as an ultrasound or X-ray may prompt further evaluation if your doctor suspects the presence of gallstones. Lab tests may be used to look for signs of infection, obstruction, or conditions such as pancreatitis. There are a number of tests and procedures that can be performed to help diagnose gallstones and complications of gallstones, including:
As previously stated, gallstones typically do not show any signs or symptoms. They are usually only revealed during an ultrasound or CT for an unrelated condition. Therefore, they often do not require treatment.
However, gallstones that do cause symptoms may be treated in the following ways:
Digestive Healthcare Center is proud to offer leading care for patients with a variety of digestive health conditions, including gallstones. With three convenient office locations in NJ, our expert gastroenterologists will work closely with you to diagnose your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan, ensuring that your specific needs are met. We give patients access to a wide range of tests and procedures focused on promoting and maintaining positive digestive health throughout their lives. Learn more about all we have to offer to patients in Somerset County and contact us today to schedule an appointment!
Our team of gastroenterologists at Digestive Healthcare Center wants to help you live a healthier and more comfortable life, by helping you put your digestive health first. Please contact us today to make an appointment – either at one of our three gastroenterology centers in NJ or from the comfort of your home via a virtual telemedicine visit.