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"What exactly is a gall stone?"
My husband keeps complaining about stomach pain around his belly button. I've done some internet searches and it sounds like gall stones. What exactly is a gall stone and will they bother him for the rest of his life (he's 58).
The gallbladder is a small organ that is shaped like a pear, which rests under the front surface of the liver in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. It is responsible for storing and secreting bile (made by the liver) into the small intestine, which helps in the process of digestion. Occasionally, small stones will form inside the gallbladder. Typically these are comprised of bile salts and cholesterol. Studies have shown that gallstones are quite common in the general population. Estimates for men in their 50s in the U.S. are that 7.3% have stones; for women it is thought to be closer to 12%. While this number may seem high, gallstones do not cause problems for the majority of people. Gallstones can become problematic, however; this occurs when they block the ducts that lead out of the gallbladder and into the small intestine. When this happens, a person may experience nausea, vomiting, and pain (classically around the right lower rib margin). If a stone becomes lodged in one of the ducts, the gallbladder and/or liver can become inflamed and urgent removal of the stone and/or gallbladder may be necessary. For patients that have recurrent symptoms thought to be due to gallstones, removal of the gallbladder may be indicated. If your husband is experiencing any symptoms that are concerning to either of you, then his primary care physician should be contacted. He/she can do a thorough history and physical exam, and if gallstones are a concern, an ultrasound of the abdomen can be done to look at the gallbladder and see if stones are present.
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