Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that develop in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac located below your liver in the right upper abdomen. Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. The liquid—called bile—helps the body digest fats. Bile is made in the liver, then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs it. The gallbladder contracts and pushes the bile into a tube—called the common bile duct—that carries it to the small intestine, where it helps with digestion.

Gallstones are lumps of solid material that form in the gall bladder. Most are the size of peas, but they can be as large as pebbles. Gallstones can be found in the gall bladder itself or in the bile duct that connects the gall bladder to the small intestine.

Most gallstones are made of cholesterol and bile pigments. Some gallstones, however, are just made of cholesterol and some are made of bile pigment.

Gallstones usually form in the gallbladder; however, they also may form anywhere there is bile--in the intrahepatic, hepatic, common bile, and cystic ducts. Gallstones also may move about within bile, for example, from the gallbladder into the cystic or common duct.

Symptoms of gallstones

Gall stones can cause symptoms such as GALL BLADDER ATTACK, gall bladder problems and gall bladder pain.

Attacks may occur every few days, weeks, or months; they may even be separated by years.

Symptoms of gallstones generally appear when the stone has become lodged in one of the ducts that carry the bile to and from the gallbladder. The most common symptom is a recurrent attack of pain in the upper abdomen or the back, known as biliary colic. These attacks often happen after a fatty meal.

The pain usually starts within 30 minutes after a fatty or greasy meal.

Blockage of the cystic duct is a common complication. Gallstones that become lodged in the cystic duct and block the flow of bile cause cholecystitis, an inflammation of the gallbladder.Fever and pain, if the gall bladder or bile duct becomes infected.

Causes of Gallstones

Gallstones occur when bile forms solid particles (stones) in the gallbladder.

The stones form when the amount of cholesterol or bilirubin in the bile is high.

Other substances in the bile may promote the formation of stones.
Pigment stones form most often in people with liver disease or blood disease, who have high levels of bilirubin.

Estrogen. Excess estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, or birth control pills appears to increase cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement, both of which can lead to gallstones.

Poor muscle tone may keep the gallbladder from emptying completely. The presence of residual bile may promote the formation of gallstones.

Gallstones may be caused by a combination of factors, including inherited body chemistry, body weight, gallbladder motility (movement), and perhaps diet.

Cholesterol gallstones are made primarily of cholesterol. They are the most common type of gallstone, comprising 80% of gallstones in individuals from Europe and the Americas. Cholesterol is one of the substances that liver cells secrete into bile. (Secretion of cholesterol into bile is an important way in which the liver eliminates excess cholesterol from the body.) In order for bile to carry cholesterol, the cholesterol must be dissolved in the bile.

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