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Gallstones - All You Need to Know

Published on Jul 17, 2017 and last reviewed on Aug 12, 2022   -  6 min read


Gallstones are formed in the gallbladder due to an imbalance in the composition of bile. Read this article to learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for gallstones.

Gallstones - All You Need to Know

What Is the Function of Bile?

About 1500 ml of bile is secreted by the liver every day. Typically, bile is necessary for digesting fat and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. It is also a medium through which waste products of metabolism, like bile pigments, cholesterol, drugs, etc., are excreted through the body. Bile salts and lecithin (phospholipids) keep the insoluble components of bile in a solution or an emulsion. Bile salts and lecithin are mainly responsible for emulsification.

What Are Gallstones?

Whenever there is an imbalance of these, the pigments and cholesterol can precipitate and form stones. Gallstones are a commonly occurring condition that forms in the gallbladder due to an imbalance in the composition of bile.

Gallstones are generally composed of cholesterol, bile pigments, and mucin. Gallstones can be asymptomatic and incidentally detected on an ultrasound scan. They can cause pain (biliary colic), acute calculous cholecystitis, chronic cholecystitis, acute pancreatitis (a severe condition), common bile duct obstruction, obstructive jaundice, and cholangitis (can be severe and cause multiple organ failures).

What Are the Types of Gallstones?

Gallstones are of two types, namely,

What Causes Gallstones?

There is no clear evidence to support the cause of gallstones. It has been attributed that gallstones occur due to:

The cholesterol secreted by your liver is dissolved by the chemicals present in the bile. But, when there is more cholesterol than what the bile could actually dissolve, it results in the formation of gallstones.

Chronic conditions like blood disorders, infections of the biliary tract, and liver cirrhosis result in an increased production of bilirubin, which is a by-product formed by the breakdown of red blood cells. Excessive production of bilirubin causes gallstone formation.

When the bile juice that is secreted cannot be excreted properly or is not excreted at all, it might lease to gallstone formation.

What Are the Symptoms of Gallstones?

What Increases the Risk of Gallstone Formation?

Risk factors for gallstone formation are of two types namely,

Uncontrollable Risk Factors:

Controllable Risk Factors:

How Are Gallstones Diagnosed?

  1. Physical Examination:

Yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes is examined physically by the health care provider.

2. Ultrasound Scan:

Ultrasound helps produce images of your abdomen and is the most preferred test for diagnosing gallstones. It also helps in the diagnosis of acute cholecystitis.

3. CT Scan of the Abdomen:

It is also an imaging test that helps diagnose by visualizing the abdominal region.

4. Gallbladder Radionuclide Scan:

Radioactive material is injected intravenously to enter the gall bladder and liver in this test. Any blockage in the bile ducts can be determined with the help of this test.

5. Blood tests:

The amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream can be diagnosed by blood tests.

How Can We Treat Gallstones?

Surgical Treatment:

Medical Treatment:

How Can We Prevent the Formation of Gallstones?

The following dietary and lifestyle modifications help in either preventing the formation of gallstones or worsening of an existing gallstone:


Gallstones do not require treatment when they appear asymptomatic. But when there is a yellowish discoloration of skin or eyes, it is essential to contact your health care provider at the earliest. If you have a family history of gallstone formation or if you belong to the female sex, you must take the necessary preventive measures to avoid the occurence of gallstones.


Last reviewed at:
12 Aug 2022  -  6 min read




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