Gallstones

What Is It?

Gallstones are pebble-like nuisances that can form inside the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a pouch that collects bile as that liquid flows from the liver to the intestine through the bile ducts. Bile is a fluid that is made, in part, to help with digestion. The salts in bile make it easier for you to digest fat. Bile also contains some waste products including cholesterol and bilirubin (created when old red blood cells are destroyed).

Gallstones form in the gallbladder when cholesterol or bilirubin particles begin to cluster together into a solid lump. The stone grows in size as the bile fluid washes over it, much like a pearl forms inside an oyster.

Most of the time, gallstones do not cause any symptoms or problems. Small gallstones can leave the gallbladder and its draining ducts, then pass out of the body through the intestines.

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