- Stones made from too much bilirubin in the bile. Bile is a liquid made in the liver that helps the body digest fats. Bile is made up of water, cholesterol, bile salts, and other chemicals, such as bilirubin. Such stones are called pigment stones.
- Family history: Gallstone often run in families, pointing to a possible genetic link.
- Weight: A large clinical study showed that being even moderately overweight increases the risk for developing gallstones. The most likely reason is that the amount of bile salts in bile is reduced, resulting in more cholesterol. Increased cholesterol reduces gallbladder emptying. Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones, especially in women.
- Diet: Diets high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber increase the risk of gallstones due to increased cholesterol in the bile and reduced gallbladder emptying.
- Age: People older than age 60 are more likely to develop gallstones than younger people. As people age, the body tends to secrete more cholesterol into bile.
- Ethnicity: American Indians have a genetic predisposition to secrete high levels of cholesterol in bile. In fact, they have the highest rate of gallstones in the United States. The majority of American Indian men have gallstones by age 60. Among the Pima Indians of Arizona, 70 percent of women have gallstones by age 30. Mexican American men and women of all ages also have high rates of gallstones.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes generally have high levels of fatty acids called triglycerides. These fatty acids may increase the risk of gallstones.
- Gallbladder radionuclide scan.
- Abdominal CT scan.
- Endoscopic ultrasound.
- Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTCA).
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP).
- Liver function tests.
- Pancreatic enzymes.
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