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What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluids that form crystals inside the gallbladder The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located on the right side of the abdomen, just beneath the liver. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, a fluid made in the liver that helps in digestion. Gallstones can range from the size of a grain to that of a golf-ball. They block the bile duct causing an inflammation or infection of the gallbladder, which is medically known as Cholecystitis, and can lead to life-threatening complications if left untreated.

formation of Gallstones

How does it form?

The bile juice carries wastes like cholesterol and bilirubin which are made from the breakdown of hemoglobin present in the red blood cells which result in the formation of gallstones. When excess cholesterol present in the bile crystallizes, it prevents the gallbladder from emptying properly, causing sudden piercing pain in the abdomen. These gallstones then block the bile ducts in the biliary tract causing a gallbladder attack that can be extremely painful.

Types of Gallstones

Cholesterol Stones

Cholesterol Stones

Pigment Stones

Pigment Stones


  • Excess cholesterol present in the bile
  • Presence of excess calcium in the bile
  • Gallbladder does not clear properly


  • Fever and chills
  • Stomach upset
  • Excessive pain on the right side of the upper/mid belly, just beneath the ribs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eyes and skin turn yellow
  • Indigestion, heartburn and gastric
  • Pain on the right shoulder or back


Even if you might not suffer from any sort of pain from gallstones initially, they might internally lead you to several complications which can include the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Piercing and rapidly intensifying pain in the right side of your abdomen
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • High fever with chills
  • Pain in the mid or lower back
  • Jaundice, leading to skin and eye whites turning yellow
  • Heartburn and indigestion

If you are going through any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you might consider suffering from the complications of a possible gallstone attack and should immediately seek medical assistance.

 Self-diagnosis for Gallstones


In this stage, the gallbladder appears normally without any adhesions. Although the conditions inside the gallbladder may favour possible gallstone formation, nothing is formed quite yet and you can take certain measures to prevent the potential risks of developing gallstone.

Grade I -  Lithogenic Stage

  • Prevention of Gallstones


    Prevention of Gallstones

    Maintaining your body weight by including high-fibre meals in your diet and getting regular exercise can lower the risk of attaining gallstones. You will have to make sure that your sugar level is in control as people with diabetes are at a higher risk of getting gallstones. Consuming good fats in the form of olive oil, canola oil, and fish can contribute to keeping your gallbladder healthy, and help you in reducing the risk of developing gallstones. 

  • Celebrities who had been diagnosed with Gallstones

    Celebrities diagnosed with gallstones

    Celebrities who had been diagnosed with Gallstones

    MC Mary Kom: Olympic medalist MC Mary Kom underwent a gallbladder removal surgery after she was rushed to the hospital because of experiencing severe pain due to gallstones back in September, 2013.

    Bharti Singh: Popular stand-up comedian Bharti Singh was rushed to Mumbai’s Kokilaben hospital after suffering from severe stomach pain, caused due to the presence of several gallstones in her gallbladder back in June, 2017. 

    Dalai Lama: Nobel-Prize winning Buddhist leader Dalai Lama was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai after complaining about suffering from severe pain and discomfort back in October 2008. Upon diagnosis, it was found out that there were several stones ranging from half-a centimetre to one centimetre in size after which he had to undergo a minimally invasive surgery.

    Eric Clapton: Back in the year 2009, rock and roll legend Eric Clapton had to pull himself out of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame concert in New York after suffering from a severe gallstones attack.

    Priyanka Gandhi Vadra: Indian politician and general secretary of All India Congress Committee Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was found to have gallstones during a routine checkup back in March, 2013, after which, she had to undergo an elective gallbladder surgery.

  • Myths & facts about Gallstones

    Myths & facts:

    Myths & facts about Gallstones

    Myth 1: Gallstones can be flushed out in urine.

    Fact: Gallstones develop in the gallbladder and do not pass out in the urine. Urinary stones formed in the kidney can pass out through urine. 

    Myth 2: Gallbladder surgery is risky and painful.

    Fact: While all kinds of surgeries involve a certain percentage of risks, gallstone surgeries are effective and very safe. Being one of the most commonly performed surgeries to remove gallstones, a keyhole/laparoscopic surgery is barely painful.

    Myth 3: All gallstones need immediate treatment.

    Fact: Gallstones can be left untreated if they do not cause any signs and symptoms. However, it is  important to remember that you have gallstones in case they begin to cause problems in the future.

    Myth 4: Endoscopy can remove gallstones.

    Fact: Endoscopy (ERCP) is helpful only in removing stones which have entered the bile duct from the gallbladder. There is a possibility that the gallstones can recur and removing gallstones by endoscopy has not yet become a routine practice.

    Myth 5: Only gallstones are removed during a surgery.

    Fact: Gallstones result in poor and abnormal functioning of the gallbladder. The entire gallbladder is removed during surgery as it prevents further inflammation and also reduces the chances of recurrence. 

  • lesser-known-facts

    Lesser known facts about gallstones


    The first ever gallstone removal surgery was performed by German surgeon Carl Johann August Langenbuch on 15th July, 1882 in Berlin, Germany.

    • Women are more likely to develop cholesterol gallstones than men.
    • Rapid weight loss can also result in gallstones.
    • India has one of the highest reported incidence rates of gallbladder cancer in the world.
    • The largest laparoscopically removed gallstone till date was sized at 12.8cm x 7cm.

When to consult a doctor?

The presence of small gallstones in the gallbladder might not cause any significant signs and symptoms initially and certain cases might never require treatment. But, if you are suffering from complications like severe abdominal pain that lasts for almost two hours, nausea and vomiting, without making a delay you should immediately seek medical assistance. Consulting a gastroenterologist or an abdominal surgeon who specialises in the digestive system in this case would be the wisest decision to make.

Questions to ask your doctor

Q1. Is there a chance that my gallstones will go away without treatment?
Q2. Could there be any other reasons for my abdominal pain besides gallstones?
Q3. Are there any chances of my gallstones recurring?
Q4. Can gallstones be removed without surgery?
Q5. Will there be any discomfort during my bowel movements?
Q6. What are the changes that I should make in my diet?
Q7. Will I be exposed to any risks and complications during the surgery?
Q8. When will I be able to return to performing daily activities after the surgery?

Treatment options & cost

Based on the conditions and severity of your symptoms, the doctor might treat your gallstones without giving it a surgical approach. However, a non-surgical procedure only works when you are having cholesterol stones.

gallstone insurance

Insurance coverage

Though insurance is very beneficial to the patient, most of the patients opt for better amenities and services while using health insurance policies to cover the cost of a gallstone surgery. With insurance, the expenses of the treatment may go higher than expectations, but, as the sum is deducted from the insurance, the patient does not feel a burden on his/her shoulder.

gallstone insurance

Gallstones Patients Testimonials

Experts Say

Latest Research

  • study-identifies-high-rate-of-gallstones-among-patients-with-sickle-cell

    Study Identifies High Rate of Gallstones Among Patients with Sickle Cell

  • stroke-risk-may-decline-after-gallbladder-removal-in-patients-with-gallstones-claims-study

    Stroke risk may decline after gallbladder removal in patients with gallstones, claims study.

  • more-number-of-patients-with-gallbladder-problems-post-second-wave-of-covid-19

    More number of patients with gallbladder problems post-second wave of COVID-19


What does a blocked bile-duct feel like?

People with a bile duct obstruction often experience symptoms like pain and itching usually in the upper right side of the abdomen followed by fever, chills and sweating.

Does gallbladder pain get worse while lying down?

The pain inflicted may be often worse while lying down but is less intense when sitting up or bending over.

How to deal with sudden gallbladder pain at home?

There is nothing that can help to stop a gallbladder attack. The pain shall automatically subside once the gallstone has passed. However, drinking water may provide some temporary relief as it helps the gallbladder to empty properly and keeps the bile from building up.

Facts and statistics around gallstones

  • 6.12% of the adult population in India are diagnosed with gallstones.
  • India is a high incidence area for gallbladder cancer and contributes to about 10% of the total cases globally.
  • In developed countries, 85% of the gallstones are cholesterol stones.
  • 2 out of every 8 women are diagnosed with gallstones whereas the ratio among men is just 1 out of every 18 men.
  • Older people are at a higher risk of developing gallstones as compared to younger ones.
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