Centers for Digestive Health

Gastroenterology located in Highland, IN, Merrillville, IN, Gary, IN, DeMotte, IN, Crown Point, IN & Dyer, IN

Around 25 million Americans have gallstones today. Although gallstones usually don’t cause symptoms, they can sometimes cause blockages — and that’s when the sudden severe pain starts. The Centers for Digestive Health, with offices in Highland, Merrillville, Dyer, Gary, Crown Point, and DeMotte, Indiana, offers dedicated gallbladder disease care. If you need help with gallstones or any other gallbladder problem, call the office nearest you or click the online appointment maker.

Gallstones Q&A

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are hard pebble-like deposits made of a digestive fluid called bile. Bile contains various components, including cholesterol, bile salts, amino acids, bilirubin, waste substances, and many other substances. 

Gallstones can be very tiny or quite large. You may have a great many small stones, one very big stone, or a mixture of the two.

Imbalances in your bile, particularly excessive cholesterol or bilirubin, is a common cause of gallstones. You may also develop gallstones if your gallbladder doesn't function normally. When it drains only partially or infrequently, your bile concentrates, and this can encourage stone formation. 

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

Gallstones may remain in your gallbladder without causing any problems. But, they can also lodge in a bile or pancreatic duct, in which case you may have sudden symptoms, including:

  • Pain in the upper right side of your abdomen
  • Pain in the middle of your abdomen
  • Pain between your shoulders
  • Right shoulder pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

These symptoms, collectively called a gallbladder attack, are a sign to seek diagnosis and treatment at the Centers for Digestive Health right away.

An untreated bile duct blockage can cause a serious infection, cholangitis. Untreated blockage in the pancreatic duct can cause pancreatitis. These conditions may be life-threatening if you don't seek help.

How are gallstones diagnosed?

Your doctor may diagnose asymptomatic gallstones during diagnostic testing for another issue. Some common tests to diagnose gallstones include:

  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) 

Your diagnostic testing may vary depending on symptom severity and other individual factors. 

What is the best treatment for gallstones?

The best treatment for gallstones depends on whether you have symptoms and the specifics of your diagnostic testing. If you have ERCP as a diagnostic procedure, your doctor may remove any gallstones they discover.

If you have recurrent gallstones, your doctor may prescribe a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure, cholecystectomy, to remove your gallbladder along with the stones inside it. 

Cholecystectomy is one of the most common surgeries in the United States. Your gallbladder is a nonessential organ, so you can easily live without it. 

If you need gallstones diagnosis or treatment, you can rely upon the leading gastroenterology team in Indiana. Call the Centers for Digestive Health office nearest you or arrange your appointment online.