Gallstones are deposits that form in the gallbladder when components of digestive secretions combine and solidify. There are two types of gallstones: cholesterol stones and pigment stones. The former are composed of cholesterol from bile, while the latter are bilirubin, a yellow compound that forms when red blood cells break down. In most circumstances, gallstones are not life-threatening, but they can be painful and cause complications such as infection. Gallstones are the most common reason people with abdominal pain and other symptoms are admitted to the emergency room.
Often, gallstones do not cause symptoms because their presence does not necessarily cause problems. Doctors call these "silent stones," and they do not require treatment. Usually, they are not discovered unless or until a doctor begins investigating for something else. It is when a stone becomes lodged in the bile duct, causing a blockage, that issues develop and the individual should seek medical attention to address symptoms and find a way to remove the stone.
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