Gallstones are common, affecting 10-15% of people in the United States. They can cause abdominal pain and affect digestion. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the symptoms. Gateway Gastroenterology in Chesterfield, Missouri, is a full-service gastroenterology practice that provides every treatment option for gallstones. Call the office or request an appointment online today.
Gallstones are hard, pebble-like substances that form in the gallbladder or bile ducts. Your gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile, a substance that helps digest fat. Your liver makes bile and sends it to the gallbladder through the bile ducts.
Gallstones consist of cholesterol and bilirubin and vary in size. You can have stones no larger than a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Gallstones cause problems when they get stuck in the bile duct. In most cases, it’s the smaller stones that cause problems.
Many people with gallstones have no problems and may not even know they have them.
Many factors may play a role in the development of gallstones. You may form the stones when there’s a higher than normal concentration of cholesterol or bilirubin in the bile. Or if you have a gallbladder that fails to empty out the bile completely.
Some people develop gallstones as a side effect of other conditions, such as liver disease or a blood disorder. Rapid weight loss and pregnancy are also risk factors for gallstones.
Symptoms of gallstones vary and may depend on the size of the stones and whether they get stuck in the bile duct or not. As noted, you can have gallstones without symptoms.
However, when gallstones cause symptoms, you may have:
Gallstone pain comes and goes and can be severe at times. You may have pain that lasts 15 minutes or several hours.
If you have abdominal pain and suspect it’s from gallstones, schedule an appointment at Gateway Gastroenterology.
Treatment for gallstones depends on the severity of your symptoms. If your gallstones cause no problems, you may not need any treatment. For problematic gallstones, treatment at Gateway Gastroenterology may include:
ERCP is a minimally invasive procedure that uses endoscopic techniques to remove gallstones.
Your gastroenterologist may prescribe medications, such as ursodiol or chenodiol to break up the gallstones, making them easier to pass.
Shock wave lithotripsy uses shock waves to break up the stones so that they can pass through the bile ducts.
Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. It is the most common treatment for gallstones. Your liver takes over the function of the gallbladder after removal.
To get help for gallstones, call Gateway Gastroenterology or request an appointment online today.