1 doctor weighed in:

What causes gallstones?

1 doctor weighed in

In brief: Causes of gallstones

Bile is made up of water, cholesterol, other fats, bile salts and a pigment called bilirubin.
Gallstones form when the usual balance of these substances is upset.

There are two types of gallstones:


• Cholesterol gallstones are the most common, accounting for about 80% of cases. These are formed when there is too much bilirubin or cholesterol in the bile, or not enough bile salts. They may also occur when the gallbladder does not empty as it should. Cholesterol gallstones are usually yellowish green.
• Pigment stones are small and dark and made of bilirubin. Their cause is uncertain although they tend to develop in people who suffer from liver disease, bile tract infections or hereditary blood disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia.



Who gets gallstones?


The factors that contribute to getting gallstones include:


Obesity – a major factor, especially in women.
• Excess oestrogen, one of the female sex hormones, from pregnancy, oral contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
• Gender - women aged 20 to 60 are twice as likely as men to develop gallstones.
• Age – people over 60 are at higher risk.
• Cholesterol-lowering drugs. These decrease the amount of cholesterol in the blood but increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile.
Diabetes – this causes high levels of fatty acids which increase the risk of gallstones.
• Rapid weight loss – causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol.
• Fasting – decreases gallbladder movement.

In brief: Causes of gallstones

Bile is made up of water, cholesterol, other fats, bile salts and a pigment called bilirubin.
Gallstones form when the usual balance of these substances is upset.

There are two types of gallstones:


• Cholesterol gallstones are the most common, accounting for about 80% of cases. These are formed when there is too much bilirubin or cholesterol in the bile, or not enough bile salts. They may also occur when the gallbladder does not empty as it should. Cholesterol gallstones are usually yellowish green.
• Pigment stones are small and dark and made of bilirubin. Their cause is uncertain although they tend to develop in people who suffer from liver disease, bile tract infections or hereditary blood disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia.



Who gets gallstones?


The factors that contribute to getting gallstones include:


Obesity – a major factor, especially in women.
• Excess oestrogen, one of the female sex hormones, from pregnancy, oral contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
• Gender - women aged 20 to 60 are twice as likely as men to develop gallstones.
• Age – people over 60 are at higher risk.
• Cholesterol-lowering drugs. These decrease the amount of cholesterol in the blood but increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile.
Diabetes – this causes high levels of fatty acids which increase the risk of gallstones.
• Rapid weight loss – causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol.
• Fasting – decreases gallbladder movement.
Quality HealthCare Team
Quality HealthCare Team
Thank
Get help from a real doctor now
Dr. Mark Pack
Board Certified, Surgery
28 years in practice
3M people helped
Continue
111,000 doctors available
Read more answers from doctors