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Could You Have Silent Gallstones?

By Len Canter
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- As many as 20 million Americans have gallstones. Most don't have any symptoms, but not all will escape a gallstone attack.

The gallbladder is a small organ in the upper right abdomen. It's a reservoir for bile, the fluid made by the liver to aid digestion. Experts aren't sure why, but gallstones form from imbalances in the substances that make up bile, such as cholesterol. You can have one or hundreds of gallstones, and they can be as small as a grain of sand or the size of a golf ball.

Gallstones: Who's Most at Risk:

  • Women.
  • Anyone age 40 and older.
  • Anyone with a family history of gallstones.
  • Native Americans.
  • Mexican Americans.

"Silent" gallstones don't interfere with the function of the gallbladder, liver or nearby pancreas. Often they're discovered during an imaging test for another health concern.

If a gallstone blocks any of the ducts that connect the gallbladder to the liver or pancreas, you can suffer a gallbladder attack. It often happens at night, after a heavy meal, and the pain can last for several hours. The attack usually stops when the stone moves. But if the duct remains blocked, you risk complications such as inflammation or infection. Untreated blockages can be fatal if they stop the pancreas from working normally.

The good news is that serious gallbladder attacks affect only about 8 percent of people with stones, according to a Danish study. Most at risk are women in general and people who have one large stone or multiple stones.

Whether or not you know you have gallstones, know the signs of a potentially serious gallstone event and contact your doctor even if the pain goes away.

Warning Signs of Gallstone-Related Infection or Inflammation:

  • Abdominal pain lasting more than 5 hours.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Jaundice, the yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Tea-colored urine and light-colored stools.

If tests confirm stones, you may want -- or need -- to have your gallbladder removed, a very common operation. And because the gallbladder isn't essential, you can live normally without it.

More information

Read more about gallstones at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Copyright © 2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved. URL:http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=740248

Resources from HONselect: HONselect is the HON's medical search engine. It retrieves scientific articles, images, conferences and web sites on the selected subject.
Gallbladder
Pain
Pancreas
Liver
Risk
Infection
Bile
Inflammation
Women
The list of medical terms above are retrieved automatically from the article.

Disclaimer: The text presented on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is for your information only and may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare professional.
Be advised that HealthDay articles are derived from various sources and may not reflect your own country regulations. The Health On the Net Foundation does not endorse opinions, products, or services that may appear in HealthDay articles.


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