Tips on Gallstone Disease

  1. Gallstones typically develop over many years, although they can form in months. Gallstones are present in about 20% of women and 10% of men over the age of 55.
  2. There are two basic types of gallstones: cholesterol and pigment. Cholesterol gallstones are the most common type in the United States.
  3. About 75% of gallstones do not cause symptoms. The most common symptom caused by gallbladder stones is episodic upper abdominal pain.
  4. For healthy patients who have no symptoms, no therapy or change in diet is needed. Patients with uncomplicated symptomatic gallbladder stones should reduce dietary fat and consider surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). An alternate approach is oral bile acid therapy. For complicated disease, gallbladder removal is warranted.
  5. Patients who undergo rapid weight loss are at risk for the development of small cholesterol gallstones and may benefit from bile acid therapy. Gallstones can seldom be prevented, although a low-fat diet may provide some protective benefit.