This text provides information in simple language on the topic: Gallstones.

What are gallstones?

The gallbladder is an organ in the abdomen. It is close to the liver. The gallbladder stores the bile. The bile is a viscous liquid. The bile helps digest fats in food. With digestion, the bile reaches the intestine via the bile duct. In the intestine, the bile dissolves the fats from the food. So the fats can be absorbed by the body.

The tough bile can turn into solid stones. These stones are called: gallstones. Gallstones can develop in the gallbladder or bile duct.

How can you recognize gallstones?

Many people have gallstones. But gallstones don't always cause problems. Therefore, many affected people are unaware of their gallstones. Then the gallstones do not have to be treated.

But gallstones sometimes cause discomfort. The symptoms of gallstones include, for example:

  • severe pain in the upper right part of the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating

Sometimes the symptoms come after a fatty meal.

Sometimes a gallstone causes biliary colic. Biliary colic is a painful spasm of the bile duct. In the case of biliary colic, the gallstone slips out of the gallbladder into the bile duct. This can block the bile duct. Then the bile duct contracts. The cramp is supposed to loosen the constipation.

An affected person will then be in severe pain. The pain comes suddenly and gets worse and worse. The pain can even radiate to the right shoulder or back.

You think: I might have gallstones? Then go to the doctor. The doctor will examine you and can help you.

What are the causes of gallstones?

The bile consists mainly of water. Various substances are dissolved in the water, such as cholesterol and bile acid. These substances have a certain relationship to one another.But sometimes this relationship changes. Then the substances can no longer dissolve in the water of the bile. Crystals are formed. These crystals are called: gallstones.

Some people are at higher risk for gallstones. These people are more likely to get gallstones than other people. These people include:

  • Women
  • elderly
  • Overweight people
  • People with disorders of the bile drainage

A predisposition can also increase the risk of gallstones. Did anyone else in your family have gallstones? Then your own risk of gallstones may also be higher.

Do you often eat fatty foods? Then the risk of gallstones can also increase.

What problems can gallstones cause?

Gallstones can cause a number of problems.

Biliary obstruction and jaundice

Sometimes a gallstone completely blocks the bile duct. Then the bile can no longer drain away. The bile then builds up in the gallbladder, pancreas, or liver. As a result, the gallbladder, pancreas, or liver can become inflamed. The traffic jam can also turn the whites of the eyes yellowish. This color is called: jaundice.

Inflammation of the gallbladder and peritoneum

If the gallbladder becomes blocked, the gallbladder can become inflamed. This is often painful. The affected person may then develop a fever. She can also feel weak and tired. In the worst case, the inflamed gallbladder can rupture. Then the bile gets into the abdomen. There it can cause inflammation of the peritoneum.

What can you do about gallstones?

Many people with gallstones have no symptoms. Therefore, the gallstones do not have to be treated.

Do you have gallstone problems? Then go to the doctor. The doctor will examine you and help you. Do you have severe pain from gallstones? Then the doctor can prescribe medication for you. The drugs work against the pain. And the medication loosens the cramped muscles.

You can also put warm compresses on the upper stomach.

Did the gallstones cause discomfort? Then the gallbladder may be removed in an operation. The doctor will explain the operation and the risks to you. But you can live well without the gallbladder.

Where can you get more information?

Would you like to read more about gallstones? You can find more information about gallstones here. Attention: This link leads out of our simple language offer. The information is then no longer in plain language.

Attention: This text only contains general information. The text does not replace a visit to the doctor. Only a doctor can give you accurate information. Are you feeling sick? Or do you have questions about an illness? Then you should always see a doctor.

We wrote the texts together with the Light Language Research Center. The light language research center is at the University of Hildesheim.