We like to think that men and women are created equally, but medical science doesn’t always see us that way. Some conditions are biased by our sex. Gallstones are one such medical condition. Women between the ages of 20 and 60 are three times more likely to develop gallstones than men.
What are gallstones?
Gallstones are solid clumps of crystallized cholesterol and other substances. They are formed in the gallbladder, which is like a holding tank for bile and other digestive enzymes. The gallbladder secretes bile into the small intestine when food enters. Stones are formed when there is an imbalance in the substances that make up the bile. Over time, the imbalance causes the cholesterol or other pigments to combine to form stones. The initial formation of gallstones does not cause pain and can often go unnoticed.
Why are women at increased risk?
Gallstones occur in up to 20% of women up to the age of 60.
The risk factors for gallstones are:
- Multiple pregnancies
- Family history of gallstones
- Hispanic or American Indian heritage
- Rapid loss of weight
- Presence of estrogen
How do you know if you have gallstones?
80% of people don’t know they have gallstones, which is why they are called “silent gallstones”.
People with symptomatic gallstones will often experience pain in the upper right region of their abdomen, with the pain occasionally presenting in the right shoulder or arm. When “gallbladder attacks” last longer than an hour or are associated with a fever, you should contact a doctor immediately.
How do you treat gallstones?
Silent gallstones do not need treatment. But symptomatic gallstones often require treatment. A pill is available by prescription that can be used to dissolve the stones in 6 to 12 months. For those who need more immediate relief, surgical treatment may be necessary. An ‘open cholecystectomy’ is when a large incision is cut into the abdomen in order to remove the gallbladder. For many a ‘laparoscopic cholecystectomy’ is a better choice. A small incision is made and the gallbladder is viewed on a monitor and removed using a laparoscope. The smaller incision makes recovery quicker and easier for most patients.
Why should Dr. Shillingford your first choice for your gallbladder removal?
Dr. Shillingford is a board certified surgeon who specializes in advanced laparoscopic procedures. Many of his patients are bariatric patients, which puts Dr. Shillingford in a position to encounter patients with gallstones frequently. As bariatric patients are predominantly female, are or have been obese, and often experience rapid weight loss, Dr. Shillingford encounters many patients with gallstones, many of whom require surgical treatment for symptomatic gallstones.
Dr. Shillingford’s experience with extensive laparoscopic surgeries also puts in him at an advantage over other general surgeons. His many years of experience in performing bariatric procedures laparoscopically gives him an edge over other surgeons with less experience in using laparoscopic technology.
Dr. Shillingford, M.D., P.A., is a board certified general surgeon specializing in advanced laparoscopic and obesity surgery. Dr. Shillingford’s patients come from all over South Florida, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Coral Springs, Plantation, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. If you are experiencing pain related to gallstones and in need of a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) call Dr. Shillingford’s Boca Raton office at (561) 483-8840.