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The Link Between Diabetes and Gallstones

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The Link Between Diabetes and Gallstones

Jun 04, 2024

Gallstones are no joke. They are painful and can cause several complications as well if they are untreated and block the flow of bile. 

Gallstones come in three types: cholesterol gallstones, pigment gallstones, and mixed gallstones. However, all types had in common some of the same risk factors, type 2 diabetes and high BMI, alongside some genetic risk factors. 

To better understand how diabetes influences gallstone formation, we consulted experts at Carolina Digestive Health Associates to explain the link between the two. 

Ways diabetes can raise your risk for gallstones 

The relationship between diabetes and gallstones is complex as both have common risk factors, and they can potentially influence each other. 

Elevated insulin levels 

Elevated insulin levels in the bloodstream, common in type 2 diabetics, can reduce the amount of bile acids secreted, favoring gallstones' appearance. 

Gallstones appear when bile acids fail to dissolve the cholesterol in the gallbladder, leading to a buildup of cholesterol.

Elevated cholesterol

In diabetics, abnormal lipid profiles are common. This includes elevated cholesterol, which may raise your risk for cholesterol gallstones in the bile.  

Reduced gastrointestinal motility

Gastrointestinal motility refers to the movement of food from the moment you chew on it to the moment you digest and expel the remains from your body. In diabetics, gastrointestinal motility is slower, making bile stay longer in the gallbladder and, as a consequence, raising the risk for gallstones. 

Excess weight 

Obesity is tied to both type 2 diabetes and gallstones and raises your risk for elevated insulin levels and cholesterol, all of which can contribute to the appearance of gallstones. However, if your cholesterol is quite high and you lose weight too quickly, your liver will secrete extra cholesterol into your bile, raising your risk for gallstones even further. 

We can treat your gallstones

If you suffer from gallstones, our experts can remove them through a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This involves making a few small incisions. The gallbladder can be removed for larger gallstones since it’s not an essential organ, and you can easily live without it. 

If your gallstones are tied to your diabetes diagnosis, working with a medical provider to normalize your blood sugar levels and elevated cholesterol could prevent future gallstones from reappearing. 

Our experts remove and treat gallstones in diabetics. If you need help, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Our specialists will examine you and let you know the best route for treating and preventing gallstones.