Gallbladder and Gallstones are a widespread issue, affecting 10 to 15 percent of the population in the United States (approximately 25 million people). Roughly a quarter of the nearly 1 million individuals diagnosed with gallstones each year will require treatment, which is usually surgical. However, is this a problem for gastroenterologists? This article will explore what gallbladder issues can feel like, how they can turn into gallstones, and how your gastroenterologist can help.

What are Gallstones and Common Causes?

Gallstones are made up of cholesterol, bilirubin, and other materials commonly found in the bile. The most common type of gallstone is composed of cholesterol. Gallstones can form when the gallbladder doesn't empty or when the bile becomes too concentrated.

The most common cause of gallstones is a disorder called cholelithiasis, which is the presence of stones in the gallbladder. Other causes of gallstones include:

  • Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Cystic fibrosis (a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system)
  • Pregnancy
  • Using birth control pills
  • Being overweight or obese

How do Gastroenterologists Diagnose and Treat Gallbladder Issues?

Gastroenterologists use a variety of tests and procedures to diagnose and treat gallbladder issues. These tests and procedures include ultrasound, CT scans, and ERC.

Ultrasound. is a test that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. This test is often used to diagnose gallstones.

CT scans. are also used to diagnose gallstones. This test uses X-rays to create images of the body. CT scans can also determine the size and location of gallstones.

ERC. is a procedure that is used to remove gallstones from the gallbladder. This procedure used a small scope inserted through the mouth and passed down the throat into the stomach. The scope is then moved into the small intestine and the gallbladder. The gallstones are then removed through a small incision in the abdomen.

Gallbladder issues can be painful. If you think you may have gallbladder issues, you should set up an appointment to see a gastroenterologist. They will be able to diagnose and treat your condition correctly.

What are Common Gallstone Symptoms and Treatments?

Gallstones typically do not cause any symptoms. However, when they do cause symptoms, the most common symptoms are:

  • Pain in the upper-right abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice

There are several treatments for gallstones. The most common treatment is surgery. Other treatments include:

  • Dissolution therapy (using medications to dissolve the gallstones)
  • Lithotripsy (Ultrasonic shock waves, often known as "sound waves," are used to break up the gallstones. The targeted stone is subjected to a series of ultrasonic shock waves, which are produced by a machine called a lithotripter.)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP; is a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure that uses endoscopy and fluoroscopy to examine and treat biliary or pancreatic ductal system disorders. It's mostly carried out by board-certified gastroenterologists with extensive experience.)
  • Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which short, thin tubes (trochars) are inserted into the abdomen via tiny incisions (less than one centimeter). Long, thin instruments are inserted through these trochars. The surgeon employs these tools to move, cut, and stitch tissue.

The Difference Between Laparoscopic and Traditional Surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is a type of surgery that uses small incisions and a camera to view the inside of the body. This surgery is often used to remove gallstones from the gallbladder. Laparoscopic surgery is less invasive than traditional surgery and has a shorter recovery time. Conventional surgery is more invasive than laparoscopic surgery and has a longer recovery time.

If you need gallbladder surgery, your gastroenterologist will talk to you about the different types of surgery and help you decide which type of surgery is right for you.

Can you Prevent Gallstones?

You can do a few things to prevent gallstones from forming in the first place. Some of these things include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding high-fat and high-cholesterol foods
  • Drinking plenty of water

If you are at risk for gallstones, talk to your doctor about ways you can prevent them.

When to See a Gastroenterologist?

It is pressing to see a gastroenterologist if you are pregnant, using birth control pills, or overweight or obese. These conditions can increase your risk of developing gallstones, or if you have a family history of gallstones. A gastroenterologist will be able to diagnose and treat your condition.

GI Associates & Endoscopy Can Help With Gallbladder Issues

GI Associates can help with screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Take control of your GI health. Contact us if you'd like to see a physician or have more questions. We treat all gastrointestinal issues and disorders with quality, comprehensive care.

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