Gallstones form when there is too much cholesterol in the bile within the gallbladder. While the existence of gallstones does not cause pain, they can produce discomfort should they block bile moving from the gallbladder. The American College of Gastroenterology reported that 80% of people have “silent gallstones,” which means that they have the condition with no symptoms.
Types of Gallstones
There are two types of gallstones which are different in appearance and cause.
- Pigment Gallstones – This type of gallstone appears black or dark brown and is formed when bile contains high levels of bilirubin.
- Cholesterol Gallstones – This type of gallstone appears yellowish and is formed by undissolved cholesterol.
Who Gets Gallstones?
A variety of factors can increase your risk of gallstones including health status, gender, and lifestyle. They include:
- Female gender
- Over the age of 40
- Native American or Mexican-American descent
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- A diet that is high in fat or cholesterol
- A diet that is low in fiber
- Rapid weight loss
- Liver disease
- Taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs that contain estrogen
When Should I See a Doctor about My Gallstones?
Anytime you experience symptoms, you should consult your gastroenterologist. Serious gallstone complications could be an indication of a bigger problem. If you notice any of the following, make an appointment as soon as possible:
- Chills and high fever
- Yellowing of the skin, including the whites of the eyes
- Intense abdominal pain
If you have questions about gallstones or experience any of the symptoms listed above, please contact us. We can evaluate your condition and recommend a course of treatment to help you stay comfortable and healthy.