Gallstones develop in your gallbladder, which is a small, pouch-like organ located just below the liver. Its primary function is to collect bile, which travels from the liver through the gallbladder and on to the intestines and aids in digestion. When bile clumps together inside the gallbladder, it can harden into bits called gallstones. Oftentimes, gallstones are unnoticeable and will dissolve and pass through the body on their own. But sometimes, gallstones become quite painful and require surgical intervention to remove them.
According to Harvard Medical School, 80% of people with gallstones do not experience any symptoms. However, the other 20% of people with gallstones will experience symptoms such as:
Experiencing any one of the symptoms listed above does not necessarily confirm that you have a gallstone, but it could be an indication that you need to visit a gastroenterologist. Your doctor will likely issue an ultrasound to detect any gallstones in the gallbladder or intestines, since they do not appear in normal X-rays. If your doctor confirms that you have a gallstone that is affecting your quality of life, they may recommend removing it or the gallbladder entirely, which is the most effective treatment.
If left untreated, gallstones can lead to more serious conditions such as pancreatitis or infection. This is especially true if the gallstone gets lodged in an outlet or drain from the gallbladder, or if it gets stuck in the intestines. This could lead to a buildup of bile or block drainage of certain enzymes, which may lead to inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis.
Gallstones are typically harmless and will pass through the body on their own. After all, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will develop a gallstone by the time they reach 60. But if you suspect that your uncomfortable and even painful symptoms point to a possible gallstone, it is time to call your gastro specialist. Call Gastro Care LI at (516) 265-7049 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment today.