The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive juice that’s released into the small intestine when you eat fat. Gallstones form when the bile abnormally hardens into small lumps of stone-like material.
Gallstones form if the bile contains too much cholesterol or too much bilirubin, which is a fluid that forms after our bodies process a component of red blood cells.
On the flipside, having too little bile salts can also cause gallstones to form. Bile salts are made in the liver and help us to process fats during the digestion process.
Gallstones made of hardened cholesterol are the most common type of gallstones and generally have a yellow color. Gallstones made of hardened bilirubin are called pigment gallstones. These stones are a darker color, usually appearing as black or dark brown stones, and are less common than cholesterol stones.
Gallstones can range in size and can be as large as a golfball, or small and granular just like pieces of sand. You can have only one gallstone or several. How many stones form is unpredictable and different for everyone.
Being overweight can raise your risk of forming gallstones, especially if you’re a woman. Many people who carry too many pounds have a high level of cholesterol in their bile fluid, which raises their risk for cholesterol gallstones.
Also, medical researchers have found that if you carry those extra pounds around your waist in an apple shape, it places you at a higher risk for developing gallstones.
Other risk factors for forming gallstones are:
If you think you may have gallstones, call us at Surgical Associates of North Texas in McKinney, Texas, for a consultation with Dr. deVilleneuve. You’ll receive expert guidance about your condition, and if you need gallbladder surgery, our team provides top-notch care throughout the process.