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Gallstones are pieces of solid matter that form in the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores bile, which helps your body digest food. Gallstones form when parts of the bile turn into crystals. There are two types of gallstones: pigment and cholesterol. Most people have cholesterol gallstones. They sometimes form as lots of small stones. Or, they may form as one big stone. A lot of times, gallstones don't cause any symptoms. When they do, some common symptoms include:
Some factors that put you more at risk for gallstones include:
Because of high levels of cholesterol in their bile, more American Indians have gallstones than other women in the United States. Among the Pima Indians of Arizona, 70 percent of women have gallstones by age 30.
If you have gallstones without symptoms, you probably won't need to do anything. Treatment for gallstones with symptoms usually means removing the gallbladder.
Content last updated: May 18, 2010.