Gallstones are hardened lumps that develop in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small organ on the right side of your abdomen that’s responsible for creating and regulating bile in your body.
Bile is a fluid that your gallbladder makes to help with digestion. When this digestive fluid hardens, gallstones are created. Common causes for gallstones are too much cholesterol in your bile, too much bilirubin in your bile, or a gallbladder disorder that affects how it empties.
Some people with gallstones don’t experience any symptoms. However, gallstones can be very painful and require treatment. Gallstones can cause intense abdominal pain or block bile ducts. In these cases, medical intervention is required.
At Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery, PC in Troy, Michigan, David Chengelis, MD, regularly performs minimally invasive surgeries to remove gallstones. Read on to learn more about the top five risk factors for developing gallstones.
1. Family history of gallstones
The exact cause behind gallstones is hard to pinpoint. However, about 25% of the time, gallstone development can be attributed to genetics. If you have a family history of gallstones, you’re more likely to develop them in your lifetime.
In addition to family history, some ethnic groups may be at an increased risk for developing gallstones. Mexican-Americans and Native Americans, for example, may have a genetic predisposition to developing gallstones. Understanding your family history can help you understand your risk factors for developing gallstones.
2. Being overweight or obese
Gallstones can be caused by having too much cholesterol in your body. Research indicates that if you’re overweight or obese, your liver produces too much cholesterol. The extra cholesterol will saturate your gallbladder, which can increase your risk for developing gallstones.
Your body mass index (BMI) is often a good indication of your weight. If you have a BMI between 25 and 29.9, you’re considered overweight. If your BMI is 30 or greater, you’re considered obese. Women with high BMIs are nearly three times as likely to have gallstones as women who are at a healthy weight.
3. Being female
Women are at an increased risk for developing gallstones. In fact, gallstones in women are 2-3 times higher than in men. A high estrogen level can cause gallstones to develop, because it increases biliary cholesterol in the bile. High biliary cholesterol levels can lead to cholesterol oversaturation in your gallbladder. Furthermore, if you have high estrogen levels, you may have and an increased risk of developing gallstones if you are also:
- On hormone replacement therapy
- Taking hormonal birth control
4. Being over age 40
As you age, your body releases more cholesterol into your bile. The extra cholesterol increases your risk of developing gallstones. Age is one of the most common risk factors for gallstones, with up to 20% of women and 10% of men suffering from gallstones by the age of 60. Getting regular exams and paying attention to any pain or discomfort is an important part of maintaining your health as you age.
5. Having diabetes
Diabetes can make your body more likely to develop gallstones. Insulin resistance, high triglyceride levels, and neuropathy, all of which can accompany diabetes, can affect gallbladder health. Many men and women with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, which is another common risk factor for gallstones. If you have diabetes, managing your condition by regularly checking your blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy weight can help you reduce your risk for gallstones.
Gallstones can cause serious complications, including pain, inflammation, and infection. To learn more about gallstone removal with minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, book an appointment online or over the phone with Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery, PC today.