The gallbladder is a pouch or pear like organ located below the liver and its main function is to store and release bile that is produced by the liver. The bile is released by the gall bladder into the small intestine when required to help digest food.

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that are formed in the gallbladder and are mostly made up of cholesterol; however, other types are seen as well.

Causes –

  1. Increased content of cholesterol in bile.
  2. Increased content of bilirubin in bile (bilirubin is a by- product of red blood cell destruction and any condition in which red blood destruction is increased may increase the risk of gallstones)
  3. Increased concentration of bile – gallbladder is designed such that it has to empty its bile to be healthy and to function properly. If due to come reason, it  fails to empty its bile content regularly then the bile may become overly concentrated and increases the risk of stone formation.

Risk Factors –

  1. Being female
  2. Being 40 years of age or older
  3.  Being overweight or obese
  4.  Being sedentary
  5. Eating a high-fat diet
  6. Eating a high-cholesterol diet
  7. Eating a low-fibre diet
  8. Having a family history of gallstones
  9. Having diabetes
  10. Taking medications that contain oestrogen, such as oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs
  11. Having liver disease

12.Rapid weight loss in a short time period.


Gallstones may be asymptomatic however, if the gallstones block the movement of bile from the gallbladder then one or more of the following symptoms are seen-

  1. Pain in the upper right abdomen-also known as biliary colic
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Dark urine
  5. Clay-coloured stools
  6. Stomach pain
  7. Burping
  8. Diarrhoea
  9. Indigestion
  10. Back pain between your shoulder blades

The treatment mainly is conservative in the beginning when there are no or minimal symptoms and no complications and aim at symptomatic reduction. If the symptoms persist or complications such as infection, blockage of bile flow are seen then surgery for the removal of the gallbladder may be advised.

It is not uncommon to find gallstones in an ultrasound without any symptoms. Gallstones without symptoms do not require any intervention.

Prevention –

If you have the above mentioned risk factors then here are the preventive measures that you must take

  1. Avoid skipping meals: Skipping meals on a regular basis or long term fasting may be reason for gall bladder not emptying and may cause concentration in bile and increase the risk of gallstones.
  2. Maintaining weight in a healthy range –Being overweight or obese in known to increase the amount of cholesterol in bile which in turn increases the risk of developing gallstones. Is it advisable to control weight by eating a healthy diet and taking plenty of regular exercise.
  3. Regular Exercise– since sedentary lifestyle is a known risk factor, it is advisable to exercise regularly.
  4. Include more fibre in your diet – Low fibre intake is a known risk factor for the formation of gallstones. Taking diet rich in fibre such as fruits and vegetables is advised.
  5. Lose weight gradually – Rapid weight loss is known risk of gallstones. It is suitable to aim for a weight loss of 1 or 2 pounds (about 0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week.


Dr.Afroze Fatima


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