Gallstones are a very common issue. About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States develop gallstones by age 60. Gallstones vary in size: Some of them are tiny, and some of them can be a couple of inches in diameter. Many people with gallstones don’t have any symptoms, as these things are unlikely to cause major trouble unless they are large.
Risk factors for developing gallstones
Certain factors raise the risk of developing gallstones. These include the following:
- being a woman;
- being 40 and older;
- a diet high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber;
- liver disease;
- having extra weight;
- rapid weight loss;
- lack of physical activity;
- use of oral contraceptives.
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How to know you may have gallstones: 6 symptoms to watch out for
Symptoms of gallstones can be similar to those of other problems in the digestive system. The only way to know for sure if you have gallstones is to see a doctor. Anyway, here are a few signs that could indicate gallstones:
1. Belly pain
Gallstones usually cause pain in the right upper abdomen. Episodes of pain can last from several minutes to several hours. It’s common for someone with gallstones to experience pain within a few hours after a meal, especially if it was fatty or heavy.
Nausea is another symptom caused by gallstones that comes after eating. If nausea is accompanied by severe pain and vomiting, it warrants a trip to the ER.
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If there’s a gallstone lodged in the bile duct, your skin and whites of the eyes can turn yellow. In addition to discolored skin and eyes, jaundice manifests in darker urine and pale stools.
If you have gallstones, it’s possible to get symptoms similar to those of acid reflux. If these symptoms don’t subside after changing your position, passing gas, or pooping, they are more likely to be caused by gallstones.
5. Painkillers don’t help
If the pain in your belly is not relieved by non-prescription painkillers, it might be caused by gallstones.
6. Fast heart rate, fever, and chills
Fever, chills, and fast heart rate, usually accompanied by abdominal pain, could mean there’s a complete blockage of the flow of bile from the gallbladder, and it has led to an infection. If you have such symptoms, don’t delay getting help, as the infection can quickly escalate and put your life at risk.
Is there a way to lower the risk of developing gallstones?
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If you don’t yet have gallstones, there are a few things you can do to lower your risk of getting them:
- eat meals at regular hours every day;
- avoid eating too much at a time;
- limit foods high in fat and cholesterol;
- stay physically active;
- if you are losing weight, do it at a steady, healthy pace;
- reach and maintain a healthy weight.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.
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