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Women Are at Increased Risk of Gallstones

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Women Are at Increased Risk of Gallstones
Women Are at Increased Risk of Gallstones

Although obesity rates are roughly equal among men and women, bariatric surgery is over whelmingly more common among women. That allows Dr. Shillingford to educate a large percentage of his patients on something they may be at risk for: gallstones. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, “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, which is secreted 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 according to the American College of Gastroenterology. According to the Mayo Clinic, in addition to being female, other risk factors for gallstones are:

  • Being pregnant
  • Family history of gallstones
  • Hispanic, Mexican, or American Indian heritage
  • Obesity
  • Rapid loss of weight
  • Taking medications that have estrogen, such as oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs
  • Being 40 or older
  • Being sedentary
  • Eating a low fiber diet
  • Eating a high fat diet
  • Having diabetes

How do you know if you have gallstones?

The majority 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. An oral medication can be prescribed 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 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, Parkland, Coral Springs, Plantation, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. If you are in need of a surgical consult for a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) call Dr. Shillingford’s Boca Raton office at (561) 483-8840.