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Our Services / Gallstones

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About Gallstones

Nearly 25 million people have gallstones in America today, and many of them suffer painful gallstone attacks. At Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, with 13 locations throughout Charlotte, Belmont, Concord, Davidson, Matthews, Monroe, Huntersville, University,  and Pineville, North Carolina, the gallstone specialists offer caring medical attention for gallstones. Book your appointment online, or call the office nearest you now. 

Gallstones Q & A

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are small, hard deposits that can develop inside the gallbladder. They can vary quite a lot in size, ranging from tiny pebbles to golf ball-sized deposits. 

How do gallstones develop?

Your liver produces bile, a digestive fluid that is stored in the gallbladder. When the bile is needed, your gallbladder moves it into your small intestine so it can help you digest fats. 

Gallstones form when bile hardens within the gallbladder. Bile is 95% water, but if you have abnormally high levels of the other bile components, like cholesterol and bilirubin, those substances can create gallstones. 

What are the risk factors for gallstones?

Gallstones are most common in women, and women 20-60 years old are three times as likely to develop gallstones as their male counterparts. Women who use hormone replacements, are pregnant (especially those who have been pregnant multiple times), or take birth control pills are even more likely to develop gallstones. 

Some other factors that increase the risk of gallstones include:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history of gallstones
  • Struggling with your weight
  • Losing significant weight very fast
  • Taking cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Hispanic or American Indian heritage

If you’re in any of these risk groups, it’s important that you pay close attention to any possible symptoms of gallstones and seek treatment if they occur.

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

Gallstones can trigger painful attacks. The pain typically occurs in the upper right abdomen, between the shoulder blades, or in the right shoulder. On average, a gallbladder attack usually lasts from 30 minutes to a few hours. These attacks frequently occur after eating fatty foods. 

How are gallstones diagnosed?

Your doctor at Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, may use several approaches to diagnose gallstones, such as an ultrasound exam or computed tomography (CT) scan.

Another diagnostic option is a HIDA scan, in which your doctor injects a substance that triggers gallbladder contractions, follows the flow of bile, and checks gallbladder function. 

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedure is a common diagnostic and treatment procedure for gallstones. This procedure uses an ultrathin scope to visualize gallstones.

How are gallstones treated?

Your doctor can remove gallstones through tiny incisions during an ERCP procedure. Another option is surgery to remove your gallbladder. Since it’s a nonessential organ, you can live a healthy life without it. 

For help with painful gallstone attacks, call Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, or use the provided booking tool to arrange your appointment now.