What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are small stones that form within the gallbladder and are usually made up of cholesterol.

In the majority of people with gallstones, the stones do not cause symptoms or require treatment. However, treatment may be necessary if a gallstone becomes trapped in the gallbladder and starts to cause symptoms and complications. When this happens, a patient is said to have gall bladder disease.

If a trapped gallstone causes pain, the patient is said to have biliary colic and if the gallbladder starts to become inflamed, the term cholecystitis is used. Cholecystitis can cause pain, fever (temp above 38˚C) and jaundice.

Occasionally, the gallstone moves into the pancreas where it causes irritation and inflammation. This is referred to as acute pancreatitis and causes abdominal pain that gradually worsens over time.

The gallbladder is a pouch-shaped structure that lies beneath the liver. It mainly stores and concentrates bile that is produced by the liver to help digest fats. The bile from the liver moves into the gallbladder via a series of channels known of as bile ducts. After concentrating the bile to increase its ability to digest fats, the gallbladder releases bile into the digestive system, as required.

Gallstones are very common and estimates suggest that over 10% of adults have them, although very few people develop symptoms. The stones are thought to develop due to a chemical imbalance in how bile is made up.

Usually, the cholesterol content is too high and the excess cholesterol leads to stones developing. Some examples of factors that are known to increase the likelihood of gallstones developing include overweight or obesity, female gender, and age 40 years or older.

Gallstones are usually diagnosed based on ultrasound examination of the abdomen and if the gallbladder does need to be removed, keyhole surgery may be recommended and is referred to as laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 17, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, June 17). What are Gallstones?. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 25, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Gallstones.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "What are Gallstones?". News-Medical. 25 July 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Gallstones.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "What are Gallstones?". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Gallstones.aspx. (accessed July 25, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. What are Gallstones?. News-Medical, viewed 25 July 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Gallstones.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.