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Stoneleigh Medical Group

Gastroenterology & Internal Medicine located in Carmel, NY, Brewster, NY, Pawling, NY, & Jefferson Valley, NY

If you have painful symptoms due to gallstones, you may need gallbladder removal. Trust the experts at Westchester Putnam Gastroenterology to treat your gallstones and the increasing discomfort because of them with non-surgical or surgical treatment. Call the office in Carmel, New York, today to set up an appointment or use the online tool.

Gallstones Q&A

What are gallstones?

Your gallbladder is an organ just below the liver in your upper-right part of the abdomen. It stores bile, a liquid that helps with digestion. 

Gallstones form in the gallbladder and range in size from a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. The hard gallstones form either because you have too much cholesterol in your bile or due to abnormalities in the bile salts your liver produces. 

What puts me at risk of developing gallstones?

You’re at the greatest risk of developing gallstones if you (are):

  • A woman aged 20-60
  • Obese
  • Have a poorly emptying gallbladder
  • Have excess estrogen from pregnancy or birth control pills
  • Take cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Diabetic
  • Experience rapid weight loss

Eating a high-fat and/or high-cholesterol diet also puts you at risk of developing gallstones. 

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

People with gallstones don’t always experience symptoms. But if you do have pain associated with them, it can be extreme, like that associated with appendicitis or a heart attack. 

Suspect gallstones if you have:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Steadily intensifying pain in the upper abdomen 
  • Recurring intolerance to fatty foods
  • Pain in the back between the shoulder blades
  • Pain under the right shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Indigestion and belching

Pain and discomfort from gallstones can pass quickly or last for several hours. 

How are gallstones diagnosed?

If your symptoms suggest gallstones, your provider at Westchester Putnam Gastroenterology performs an ultrasound to detect the masses. Some patients require a CT scan and blood test along with an ultrasound. 

If an ultrasound is inconclusive, you may undergo an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). During this test, your provider inserts a long, flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope through your mouth down into the stomach and into the small intestine. 

Your doctor introduces a special dye to your gallbladder that temporarily stains the ducts in the biliary system so they can locate and remove stones in the ducts.

How are gallstones treated?

The most common way to treat gallstones is with surgery to remove the gallbladder. This minimally invasive procedure requires just a few tiny incisions in the abdomen. Recovery is relatively quick, but you may have some diarrhea temporarily following the procedure. 

After gallbladder removal, bile flows from your liver directly into your small intestine. You can live without your gallbladder but may need to make some minor adjustments to your diet to avoid stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea. 

There are medications you can take orally to slowly dissolve gallstones. Because this is a less effective way to get rid of gallstones and often results in recurrence, medications are usually used only on those who can’t undergo surgery. 

To learn how Westchester Putnam Gastroenterology can help you find relief from painful gallstones, call the office or use the online tool to schedule an appointment.