What Are Gallstones?
Gallstones are hardened pieces of digestive matter that can form in the gallbladder. They can block bile ducts, which release bile into the small intestine. Bile helps break down fats to aid digestion. When gallstones interfere with bile ducts, it can cause sudden, intense pain that needs immediate medical attention.
There are two types of gallstones:
Cholesterol gallstones – The most common type of gallstone, these are usually yellow-green and are made from dissolved cholesterol.
Pigment gallstones – Stones are dark brown or black from too much bilirubin in the bile.
Gallstones only have symptoms when they block bile ducts. Those symptoms include:
Pain – Pain is sudden and intense and felt in the upper right of the abdomen just below the breastbone. Individuals with gallstones may also experience pain between the shoulder blades and the right shoulder.
Vomiting or nausea – A gallstones attack may cause vomiting and nausea.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have gallstones. A gastroenterologist can diagnose gallstones and recommend the treatment that’s right for you.
Most often, surgery is needed to remove the gallbladder. This may be recommended if you have frequent or recurring gallstone attacks. Occasionally, medicine may be used to help dissolve gallstones deposits in the gallbladder. It’s important to take medication as directed as it can take gallstones months or years to fully dissolve.
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