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Gallstones: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options.

The gallbladder is a small pouch-like organ found underneath the liver. Its main purpose is to store and concentrate bile. Bile is a liquid produced by the liver to help digest fats. It’s passed from the liver into the gallbladder through a series of channels known as bile ducts.

Gallstones are hard, pebble-like pieces of material, usually made of cholesterol or bilirubin, that develop in the gallbladder. When gallstones block your bile ducts, they can cause sudden pain, which means you need medical attention right away.

Causes of Gallstones

Gallstones are thought to develop because of an imbalance in the chemical make-up of bile inside the gallbladder. In most cases the levels of cholesterol in bile become too high and the excess cholesterol forms into stones.

  • A greater amount of cholesterol or bilirubin in bile.
  • Hormones or medications that result in decreased emptying of the gallbladder.
  • Obesity.
  • Inactive lifestyle.
  • Being female.
  • Being over 40 years old.
  • Diabetes.
  • Liver disease.
  • Family history of gallstones.

Symptoms of Gallstones

Gallstones often have no symptoms. But if a gallstone becomes trapped in an opening (duct) inside the gallbladder, it can trigger a sudden, intense pain in your tummy that usually lasts between 1 and 5 hours. This type of abdominal pain is known as biliary colic.

Some people with gallstones can also develop complications, such as inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).

This can cause:

  • Pain in the upper mid abdomen or upper right abdomen.
  • Associated pain in the right shoulder.
  • Chest pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Repeated similar episodes.
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • A high temperature


Your Doctor at Westminster Ortho Med Clinic, Dubai may use Perform:

  • Taking Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Lab and imaging tests to diagnose and find gallstones.
  • Blood tests can show signs of infection or inflammation of the bile ducts, gallbladder, pancreas, or liver.


Silent stones are not treated and should be left alone. Most people who have gallstones are in this category.If you have symptoms, such as pain, you will probably need to be treated.

The most common treatment for gallstones is to remove the gallbladder surgically. Removal of the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. In the majority of cases (90%), this surgery can be performed laparoscopically, a minimally invasive technique that results in less post-operative pain and a faster recovery than conventional cholecystectomy.

Gallstones that are found in the bile ducts may need to be removed even if there are no symptoms. This procedure is commonly done with the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedure.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is known as a minimally invasive procedure because it uses several small incisions instead of one large one. A laparoscope is a narrow tube with a camera. This surgical tool is inserted through one incision. The camera allows your doctor to see your gallbladder on a TV screen. Your gallbladder is then removed through another small incision.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) Procedure

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedure is another minimally invasive option for removing gallstones. The endoscope is a tube-like tool. Your doctor will need to move it throughout your digestive system during the treatment. The path the endoscope travels is:

  • In the mouth.
  • Down the throat.
  • Through the stomach.
  • Into the duodenum (beginning of the small intestine) where the common bile duct empties its bile.

Once there, the endoscope is used to remove any blockages in the bile duct.

Non-surgical treatments for gallstones

In most cases where gallstones need treatment, your healthcare provider will use a minimally invasive technique to remove the stone.

There are medications that can be used to dissolve the stones. However, as minimally invasive methods have advanced, these drugs haven’t been used as often. Dissolving medications can take months—or possibly even years—to get rid of the gallstones.

By contrast, a procedure resolves the issue quickly. Using these medications to treat gallstones could be an option if you are unable to have surgery because of another condition. Talk to your doctor about all treatment options and which one is the best fit for you.

Foods to avoid if you have had gallstones in the past

Many gallstones are formed from cholesterol. Though you cannot prevent gallstones, you can try and limit the amount of fatty foods in your diet. Several tips for limiting cholesterol in your diet include:

  • Eating less meat.
  • Adding fish.
  • Limiting the amount of fried foods.
  • Adding more whole grains.
  • Choosing low-fat dairy products (cheese, milk).
  • Adding fresh vegetables and fruit.

Should you require additional information or would like to make an appointment with our Consultant General surgeon, Dr. Majid Bassuni ,please call us or e-mail us at info@westminsterclinic.ae


  • American Gastroenterological Association
  • nhs.uk
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • Clevelandclinic.org

Disclaimer: All contents on this site are for general information and in no circumstances information be substituted for professional advice from the relevant healthcare professional, Writer does not take responsibility of any damage done by the misuse or use of the information.

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