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Gallstones Specialist

Marc David Makhani, MD -  - Gastroenterologist

LA Digestive Health and Wellness

Marc David Makhani, MD

Gastroenterologist located in Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers, Los Angeles, CA

Marc David Makhani, MD is an experienced gastroenterologist who helps patients suffering from gallstones. Experiencing symptoms of gallstones is cause to visit the doctor, as they can lead to severe complications. Dr. Makhani provides the proper diagnosis, along with an appropriate treatment plan for your particular case and symptoms. If you suffer from symptoms of gallstones, schedule an appointment with Dr. Makhani at LA Digestive Health and Wellness in Los Angeles today!

Gallstones Q & A

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are pieces of solid material that form in the gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver. They can cause pain when they block a bile duct. Gallstones form in the gallbladder and refer to hardened deposits of digestive fluid (otherwise known as bile). They may develop in various numbers and sizes, and require careful attention to any emerging symptoms.

What are symptoms of gallstones I should look out for?

Gallstones don’t always present signs or symptoms. In those cases, treatment typically isn’t required. Symptoms generally occur when the gallstone lodges in a duct that causes a blockage. In that case, painful symptoms emerge:

  • Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in either the center or upper right portion of your abdomen
  • Back pain between your shoulder blades
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting

What causes gallstones?

Although it remains unclear exactly what causes gallstones, there are certain risk factors that precede their occurrence. An excess of cholesterol or certain chemicals in your gallbladder may form crystals that turn into gallstones. Another risk factor is when your gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly or often enough, creating concentrated bile and thereby forming stones.

Other noted risk factors include, but aren’t limited to, being female, being 40 or older, not moving enough, being pregnant, eating a high-fat or high-cholesterol diet, having diabetes, taking medications that contain estrogen, or having liver disease.

Can gallstones lead to severe complications?

Left untreated, symptomatic gallstones can lead to various and severe complications. These include:

  • Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) that can cause severe pain and fever
  • Blockage of the common bile duct that can lead to an infection in the duct or jaundice
  • Blockage of the pancreatic duct, which can lead to pancreatitis, inducing intense and persistent abdominal pain that typically requires hospitalization
  • Gallbladder cancer, which is a very rare case that may affect people with a history of gallstones

What kinds of treatment methods can I expect?

If your gallstones don’t reveal any signs or symptoms, treatment isn’t necessary. Emerging symptoms or intensifying pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen indicates the need for treatment, though.

Before determining the proper treatment for your case, Dr. Makhani first assesses and diagnoses its severity. Some cases can be cured with oral medications that serve to dissolve the gallstones, but it may take months or years for the stones to dissolve using this method. It’s entirely possible that either the medication won’t work, or the gallstones may form again if you stop taking them.

Surgery to remove the gallbladder (i.e., cholecystectomy) typically is recommended over medications due to its effectiveness: It completely stops gallstones from recurring, which happens frequently if the gallbladder is left in place.