General and Gastrointestinal Surgery

Who's at Risk?

Gallbladder disease:

  • is more common in women than in men
  • is a disease primarily of middle age
  • is more common in overweight people
  • usually occurs after childbirth or during pregnancy
  • is more common in fair-skinned people

Despite these statements, it is not uncommon for a twenty-year-old, dark skinned, thin male or female to get gallstones.  However, based on these relationships and numerous studies, we known that there are various factors to gallstone formation including:

  • Changes in sex hormones as might occur during pregnancy or with the birth control pill
  • Genetic factors that give a familial predisposition
  • Periods of rapid weight loss or weight gain
  • Periods of/or repetitive fasting
  • Obesity
  • Diseases which either impair the absorption of bile from our intestinal tract, like Crohns disease, or that lead to rapid and abnormal breakdown of red blood cells, such a thalassemia or sickle cell anemia

Ultimately, gallstones result from an inability to keep cholesterol dissolved in water.  Just like fats in our intestinal system need bile salts and other substances in bile to be absorbed, cholesterol needs the same substances to keep it dissolved in water, the primary component of bile.  If there is too much cholesterol or not enough of the other substances, the cholesterol will form crystals.  Over time, these crystals grow into stones.

More about gallstones

More about the gallbladder and gallstones