Gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder.

If a gallstone becomes trapped in an opening (duct) inside the gallbladder, it can trigger a sudden, intense pain in your tummy that usually lasts several hours. This is called biliary colic.

Some people with gallstones can also develop complications, such as inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).

This can cause:

  • persistent pain
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) 
  • a high temperature

When gallstones cause symptoms or complications, it’s known as gallstone disease or cholelithiasis.

What causes gallstones?

Gallstones are thought to develop because of an imbalance in the chemical make-up of bile inside the gallbladder. 

In most cases the levels of cholesterol in bile become too high and the excess cholesterol forms into stones.

Gallstones are very common. It’s estimated more than 1 in every 10 adults in the UK has gallstones, although only a minority of people develop symptoms.

You’re more at risk of developing gallstones if you’re:

  • overweight or obese  
  • female (particularly if you have had children) 
  • 40 or over (the risk increases as you get older)


Treating gallstones

Treatment is usually only necessary if gallstones are causing symptoms as described above.

In these cases, keyhole surgery to remove the gallbladder may be recommended. 

This procedure, known as a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, is relatively simple to perform, has a low risk of complications and usually requires an overnight stay.

It’s possible to lead a normal life without a gallbladder. 


What our patients say

We were very pleased to receive first class reassurance, advice, treatment, and aftercare. We would definitely recommend Dr. Campbell to anyone in need of an excellent Doctor. His secretary Sarah was also very helpful and most competent.

— Patient
BMI The Alexandra Hospital

Combining superb expert knowledge , outstanding technical skills (colonoscopic endoscopic mucosal resection), extremely good listening and communication skills with a down to earth practical approach to any difficulties, Dr Willert made me fully very safe and confident in his care. I am very pleased to have been referred to him with my problem.

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Spire Manchester Hospital