Do you have these 4 risk factors of gall bladder disease?


by Steven Leeds, MD

Sep 11, 2023

The gallbladder is a small organ located just below the liver. Its primary function is to store and concentrate bile, a digestive fluid. When you eat or after a meal, bile is released into the intestine and the gallbladder squeezes to help with digestion. 

Gallbladder stones are hardened deposits of bile. Up to 15% of people will develop gallbladder stones at some point during their lifetime and 4% of those people will face complications.

How do gallbladder stones form?

Gallbladder stones form when there is an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. It is an indication that the gallbladder is no longer functioning properly.

What are the symptoms of gallbladder stones?

Gallstones can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, they can lead to more serious complications, such as inflammation of the gallbladder or blockage of the bile ducts.

What is the treatment for gallbladder stones?

Surgically removing the gall bladder is the most effective treatment for gallbladder stones and prevents further complications. This procedure is called a cholecystectomy.  If the gallbladder is taken out, your body adapts and digestion goes on like usual.

Four risk factors for gallbladder stones

Gallbladder stones can impact anyone, but there are several factors that have proven to be a good indicator of who is most at risk.

  • Gender: Women are twice as likely to need a cholecystectomy.
  • Age: Studies have shown that most common age range for a cholecystectomy is between 40 - 50 years old, but gall bladder disease can happen at any age.
  • Fertility: During the fertile years, increased estrogen levels lead to higher-than-usual cholesterol secretion into the bile, increasing the likelihood of gallstones
  • Weight and rapid weight loss: Obesity is the cause for many medical and surgical problems. Being overweight or undergoing rapid weight loss can increase the risk of gallstones. Rapid weight loss can lead to the release of excess cholesterol into the bile.

If you identify with these factors and are concerned about gall bladder disease, take this quiz to learn more about your risk for digestive conditions.

Find a gastroenterology specialist near you. 

About the Author

Steven G. Leeds, MD, is a minimally invasive surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, where he is the medical director of minimally invasive research and simulation. Dr. Leeds is fellowship-trained and specializes in minimally invasive surgery techniques. He treats several conditions of the esophagus and stomach.

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