How do I know if I have gallstones?

Gallstones are small stones that form inside a person’s gallbladder - the organ directly beneath your liver. These stones can either be miniature in size or as big as your gallbladder itself.

Between meals, it’s normal for the gallbladder to be filled with bile. When you consume foods that are high in fat, the bile is emptied into the intestine. Gallstones can irritate the gallbladder or clog it and prevent it from emptying. If these stones are pushed out, they can also keep the liver and pancreas from emptying as well.

Sometimes, it is likely that you may not suffer any symptoms. In this case, it’s unlikely that you will require treatment. If you do, these include:

  • Abdominal pain - often on the right side of the area under your ribs or the upper part of your abdomen.
  • Pain in your back or right shoulder.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

It’s important to note that while symptoms can come and go, they often get worse over time.

In fact, if your condition is particularly serious, you may experience the following:

  • Jaundice
  • Infection
  • Death as result of gallbladder tears
  • Inflammation of the pancreas

How can I get tested and treated?

Your doctor will be able to detect the presence of gallstones primarily through an ultrasound. Here, sound waves are used to obtain an image of your gallbladder.

It’s important to note that even if you do have gallstones, these may not necessarily be causing your symptoms. If this is the case, your doctor may perform other tests to determine the cause of your illness.

Gallstones are primarily treated through surgery. However, this will depend on the size of your stones, what kind of symptoms you’re experiencing, and how you feel about your treatment options.

During surgery, both your gallbladder and stones are removed. The surgery does not affect your digestive patterns and habits too much and around half of those who undertake surgery experience mild after-effects, including gas, bloating, and loose bowel movements. Following surgery, gallstones rarely form again.

Alternatively, if your gallstones aren’t causing you any symptoms, you may not require any kind of treatment.

How do I prevent gallstones from forming?

If you wish to prevent this from happening again or worsen your symptoms, maintaining a healthy weight is key.

If you’re overweight, losing weight quickly, for example through weight loss surgery, can lead to gallstones. So make sure you consult your doctor before taking any drastic measures.

What does gallstone pain feel like?

Can gallstones go away on their own?

What are the symptoms of a low-functioning gallbladder?

Do you see a gastroenterologist for gallbladder problems?

Can gallstones cause stomach bloating?

Can low-fat diets cause gallstones?

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