Gallbladder Stones: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

April 30, 2024

Gallbladder Stones: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
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Gallbladder Stones

The gallbladder is a little, pear-shaped organ located just below the liver on the right side of the belly. A digestive fluid called bile is stored in the gallbladder and is expelled into the small intestine. Bile is responsible for transporting waste products from the liver, including bilirubin, which is produced by the body during the breakdown of red blood cells. When the waste products and bilirubin are out of balance, gallbladder stones might form. From the size of a grain of sand to that of a golf ball, gallstones can vary widely in size. 

Table of Contents

  1. What are Gallbladder stones?
  2. Types of Gallbladder stones
  3. Symptoms
  4. Causes of Gallbladder stones
  5. Treatment of Gallbladder Stones
  6. Conclusion
  7. Frequently asked questions


What are Gallbladder Stones?

Gallbladder stones are also called gallstones which are pieces of solid material that develop in the gallbladder, a little organ located beneath the liver, referred to as gallstones. This can develop into a condition called cholecystitis.

To aid with digestion, the gallbladder stores and secretes bile, a liquid produced in the liver. Bile is responsible for transporting waste products like cholesterol from the liver, including bilirubin, which is produced by the body during the breakdown of red blood cells. When cholesterol and bilirubin are out of balance, gallstones might form. A gallstone might be as big as a golf ball or a grain of sand. 


Types of Gallstones

Gallbladder stones can be categorised into two types:

  • PIGMENT STONES: The primary component of these brown or black stones is bilirubin. Those who contract them typically have leukaemia or sickle cell anaemia, or they have liver problems.
  • CHOLESTEROL STONES: Since they are primarily composed of undissolved cholesterol, they are often yellow-green in colour. However, they may also contain other substances like bilirubin or bile salts in large quantities. Approximately eighty per cent of gallbladder stones are of this type, which is the most prevalent.


Pain in the gallbladder can happen practically anytime, but it usually happens after eating a high-fat meal, like fried food. Gallbladder stones may cause upper right abdominal or midline stomach pain. 

The following symptoms may worsen if gallbladder stones are not detected:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eye whites
  • Sore throat
  • Itchiness on the skin
  • Diarrhoea
  • Disorientation
  • Cold
  • Appetite loss
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Abdominal bloating

Although gallbladder stone-related pain typically subsides within a few hours, it can sometimes feel rather intense. Pain is not experienced by gallbladder stones in itself. Instead, pain arises from the obstruction of bile flow from the gallbladder caused by gallstones. In some situations, X-rays or abdominal surgery may be used by the physician to find the gallstones.

A gallbladder infection or inflammation of the pancreas, liver, or gallbladder may be caused by these symptoms.

The symptoms of gallbladder stones can sometimes be confused with those of other serious conditions, such as pancreatitis and appendicitis. Therefore it is essential to visit a doctor if experiencing any one or more than one of these symptoms.

Causes of Gallbladder Stones

Gallbladder stones are believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the bile within the gallbladder. Several factors could contribute to that imbalance, while professionals are yet unsure of the precise cause:

  • HIGH LEVELS OF CHOLESTEROL IN BILE: Yellow cholesterol stones are a result of having too much cholesterol in the bile. These hard stones may develop if the liver produces more cholesterol than the bile can process.
  • CONCENTRATED BILE INDUCED BY A FULL GALLBLADDER: For the gallbladder to work correctly, it must be able to empty its bile. Stones may occur if the bile gets excessively concentrated due to the failure of the organ to discharge its contents.
  • A HIGH LEVEL OF BILIRUBIN IN BILE: When red blood cells normally break down, a substance called bilirubin is created. After its formation, it finally exits the body by passing through the liver. The liver produces more bilirubin than it should while dealing with specific illnesses like liver damage and blood problems. When the extra bilirubin is not broken down by the gallbladder, pigmented gallbladder stones develop. A dark brown or black colour is typical for these hard stones.

Treatment of Gallbladder Stones

Treatment for gallbladder stones is only necessary if they are causing symptoms. Smaller gallbladder stones can occasionally leave the gallbladder on their own and pass through the body through the stool. If the irritating stones move within the gallbladder, gallbladder stone attacks may also subside on their own. Even after the gallbladder is removed, the majority of patients with gallbladder stones will still experience symptoms; however, medication or techniques to dissolve the stones might be used as well. In around two out of every three cases, gallbladder stone symptoms recur within two years, even if they go away on their own. There are two ways of treatment procedure to remove gallbladder stones:

  • Medications for Gallbladder Stone Dissolution: Oral medications may be able to dissolve gallbladder stones. However, clearing these stones in this manner may require months or even years of medication, and stopping treatment will probably cause the gallbladder stones to reappear. Occasionally, medications are ineffective. Gallbladder stone medications are only prescribed to those who are unable to have surgery.
  • Cholecystectomy, or Gallbladder Removal Surgery: Given the recurrent nature of gallbladder stones, the physician might advise surgery to remove the gallbladder. Bile is no longer retained in the gallbladder after it is removed; instead, it moves straight from the liver into the small intestine. The removal of the gallbladder can induce diarrhoea, although this condition is usually transient and does not damage the ability to digest food. 


Hard fragments that resemble pebbles that can develop in the gallbladder are called gallstones. The stones can be small or the size of a golf ball. In addition to pain, digestive symptoms like nausea and vomiting, as well as other issues like jaundice, can result from bile duct obstruction.

Symptom intensity and treatment options for gallstones vary. Gallbladder stones can occasionally dissolve on their own or be treated with medicine. However, one of the most common procedures performed on adults is gallbladder surgery. It’s always advisable to seek a doctor’s help if experiencing one or more than one symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do gallbladder stones cause fatigue and dizziness?

The stones that get lodged in the bile duct can induce gallbladder spasms, which may cause lightheadedness by rapidly lowering the heart rate and blood pressure. If they become trapped for several hours or more, people might have fatigue, which could lead to infection or inflammation and make them sick.

2. When should I schedule an appointment with my doctor if I have gallbladder stones?

A gallbladder stone attack may be the cause of abrupt stabbing pain in your upper right abdomen or shoulder, especially after eating. 

Get medical help as soon as possible. While determining the cause, a medical professional can ease your discomfort. If you had an experience of biliary colic in the past a visit to a doctor is advisable.

3. How can I prevent gallbladder stones?

You can reduce the risk of gallbladder stones by following these steps:

  • Maintaining an ideal healthy weight.
  • Losing weight gradually.
  • Adapt a healthy lifestyle by opting for a balanced nutritious diet.

4. Are gallbladder stones harmful?

The majority of gallbladder stones are painless and are not harmful. Most of the time, there is no need to treat these “silent gallbladder stones.” However, if the pain is sudden, intense, and lasts for hours, one must seek medical attention right away. Gallstones lodged in the bile duct could be the cause of this very fatal indication.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.


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