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Additional Resources

Gallbladder Disease:

Single Site Gallbladder Surgery:

Learn about the potential risks of da Vinci Single-Site Surgery, how your surgeon removes your gallbladder, and whether it's right for you.

Causes of Gallbladder Disease

Main Causes

Your gallbladder may cause symptoms if something blocks the flow of bile through your cystic duct. The most common cause of a blockage is a gallstone. Doctors believe stones form when bile has too much cholesterol or not enough bile salts. Stones can also form if the gallbladder does not empty correctly. And, just having gallstones can cause more gallstones to form.

Other Causes & Risk Factors

There are other common causes for gallstones, including:1

  • Gender: Women are twice as likely as men to have gallstones. Extra estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, or birth control pills may raise cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement.
  • Genetics: Gallstones often run in families.
  • Weight: Even being slightly overweight raises your risk for gallstones. Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones.
  • Diet: A diet high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber can cause gallstones to form.
  • Rapid weight loss: Rapid weight loss, fasting and crash dieting can cause your liver to release extra cholesterol, which can cause gallstones.
  • Age: People over the age of 60 are more likely to develop gallstones.
  • Ethnicity: Native Americans and Latino men have higher rates of gallstones.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Drugs that lower your cholesterol levels can increase the amount of cholesterol secreted into bile, which increases the risk of gallstones.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes often have high levels of fatty acids called triglycerides. These fatty acids may increase the risk of gallstones.

The cause of pigment gallstones is not fully understood. These stones tend to form in people who have liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), biliary tract infections, or hereditary blood disorders where the liver makes too much bilirubin (a waste product).

Screening and Testing

1.National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gallstones/#3