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3 Myths About Gallstones

Gallstones on gauze after surgical removal of the gallbladder as gallstones cannot be flushed like a kidney stone. VIPSurg logo at bottom left.

If you’ve had gallstones at some point in your life, you’re not alone! Between 10-15 percent of Americans have experienced gallstones – almost one million people are diagnosed a year. Gallstones occur when your digestive fluids harden into a stone-like formation and deposit in your gallbladder. They can vary in size, and for many, they do not cause any symptoms at all.

So, now what? You might have a gallstone and you don’t even know it. Do not worry, we have taken the time to calm your jitters by busting a few myths about gallstones.

Myth #1: You always need treatment for gallstones.

No. Gallstones come in all shapes and sizes, and some cause no problems at all. If the gallstone is not leading to discomfort or pain, surgery is probably not required. Many people will never know they have gallstones. Once the gallstones become symptomatic, patients should consult with a qualified surgeon like Dr. Tsuda about getting surgery known as a cholecystectomy. Gallstones do tend to grow with time, so it might be better to get it out when it starts causing pain, instead of waiting.

Myth #2: Gallstones cause gallbladder cancer.

This is tricky. Around 80 percent of people with gallbladder cancer have gallstones. However, you have to consider that gallstones are very common, while gallbladder cancer is rare. Just because you have gallstones does not mean that you will develop gallbladder cancer. There are a lot of factors that can increase your risk of gallbladder cancer, and scientists have yet to find reliable evidence that correlates gallstones to gallbladder cancer. Some studies have linked particularly large gallstones with a slightly increased risk of gallbladder cancer but the overall risk is still very low.

Myth #3: You can flush out a gallstone.

Some have been led to believe that there are natural ways to flush out a gallstone like you flush out a kidney stone. Although they can be compared due to the stone-like presence in an organ, the treatment process is completely different. If you pass a larger gallstone, it increases the risk of complications if it gets stuck in the common bile duct – causing more problems. Further, there is no reliable way to “flush” the gallbladder. It works independently of the food and drink transport system. The best flush for your body is drinking plenty of water and losing weight (if you need to) slowly and in a measured way. Dehydration and rapid weight loss can increase the likelihood of symptomatic gallstone formation.

The Bottom Line

 Gallstones are very common. You should not worry too much if you have one (or lots!) because, most of the time, they are harmless and asymptomatic – you may even not know they’re there! If you are looking to talk to a doctor about your gallbladder, give us a call today. VIPSurg specializes in gallbladder surgery – one of the most common surgeries in the United States. We provide our patients with compassionate and individualized care to get them to their healthiest selves.

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