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Your gall bladder is a small sac that lies beneath your liver, below the right rib cage. It stores and concentrates bile, a greenish-brown liquid formed by your liver. The bile then passes into your small intestine through bile ducts, to help with digestion, mainly of fats.
Gallstones are collections of crystals of various substances in the bile, especially cholesterol. They grow in the gall bladder and look like small stones.
Around 5.5 million adults in the United Kingdom have gallstones. They are more common in women than men, but overweight people and those over 60 seem to be more at risk. Gallstones may stay in the gall bladder or move into the bile duct (the tube between your liver and intestine).
There are a number of treatment options, if the gallstones are causing symptoms, including medicines, surgery, removal via an endoscope or using shockwaves.
Not all gallstones cause symptoms. Often, people do not know that they have them. However, common symptoms of gallstones include
All the above symptoms may be triggered by a fatty meal.
If the gallstones move from your gall bladder into your bile duct, you may also experience
Once gallstones are suspected, tests are likely to be performed to confirm their presence and location. These include
Gallstones grow in the gall bladder and can cause episodes of pain, especially after fatty foods or a large meal. The pain is often cramping and intermittent but usually goes away after a few hours.
Reducing the size of your meals and eating a well-balanced diet may reduce your symptoms whilst you are waiting to have treatment.
If you find any particular foods trigger your symptoms, you could trial avoiding them to see if this helps.
Some people find that following a low fat diet can prevent episodes of pain from gallstones, or make them less frequent. However, this is not necessarily the case for everyone.
If you are overweight, gradual weight loss can reduce the risk of developing gallstones.
If you have persisting pain, fever or jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes), please seek prompt medical attention.
For general medical advice please use the NHS website, the NHS 111 service, walk-in-centres, or your GP.
This information is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.
The information in this article is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.
Publication Date: June 2018
Review Date: November 2022