Gallbladder Stones

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gallbladder stones

What are Gallbladder Stones known in Singapore?

Gallbladder stones, also known as cholelithiasis, are a common condition in Singapore that developed stone-like objects in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is responsible for the storage and release of bile, which helps in digesting fats in the food we consume.

Gallbladder stones are made up of hardened cholesterol or pigments such as bilirubin. These stones can vary in size, ranging from a tiny grain to a golf ball. While gallbladder stones typically do not result in any symptoms and do not need to be treated, in some cases, gallbladder stones may block the bile duct, causing persistent pain and inflammation. Sometimes, gallbladder stones may travel to the bile duct, resulting in bile duct stones. 

What causes Gallbladder Stones?

Gallbladder Stones

Gallbladder stones are formed when bile hardens into stone-like structures. Although it is difficult to determine the exact reason as to why these changes in bile occur, it generally happens when the bile contains too much cholesterol, bilirubin or bile salts. Gallbladder stones also occur when the gallbladder does not completely empty. 

What are the symptoms of Gallbladder Stones?

Most gallbladder stones usually do not cause symptoms. However, some symptoms of gallbladder stones include:

  • Pain in upper mid or upper right abdomen 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Clay-coloured stools

How are Gallbladder Stones diagnosed?

Ultrasound image of Gallbladder stones

There are several tests that can be used to diagnose gallbladder stones, such as:


Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves through body tissues to show images of the body structures. Ultrasound can be used to look out for any gallbladder stones.

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

This test is similar to ERCP, but uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instead of a dye to visualise the bile ducts and stones. Similarly, only stones found in the bile ducts can be removed. 

CT scan

A CT scan can be used to capture X-ray images of your body to allow the doctors to look out for the presence of calcified gallbladder stones or any inflammation in the pancreas, bile ducts or gallbladder.

Blood tests

Your doctor may order a blood test in order to check for complications such as infection in the pancreas and signs of bile duct blockage.

How are Gallbladder Stones treated in Singapore?

Gallbladder stones can be treated via surgery or medications. 

Surgery to remove gallbladder stones is also called a cholecystectomy. It involves removing the entire gallbladder especially if you are experiencing recurrent gallbladder stones. Once the gallbladder is removed, bile will flow directly into the small intestines instead of being stored in the gallbladder. The removal of the gallbladder does not affect your body’s ability to digest food, although you may experience diarrhoea.

Medications such as ursodiol can help to dissolve the cholesterol present in gallbladder stones. However, it may take several months for the medication to dissolve cholesterol.

Does removing my gallbladder shorten my life?

Removing your gallbladder will not lower your life expectancy. However, you are recommended to make certain dietary changes, such as avoiding high-fat, fried and greasy foods initially.

What complications can arise if Gallbladder Stones are left untreated?

Although most gallbladder stones are asymptomatic, a small percentage of gallbladder stones may have the ability to develop into something more serious. Complications include:


The blockage of the bile duct can cause bile buildup of bile inside the gallbladder, resulting in infection and inflammation of the gallbladder. 

Increased risk of gallbladder perforation

When gallbladder stones cause the inflammation of the gallbladder, it may result in a higher risk of gallbladder perforation, which may eventually result in the rupture of the gallbladder.


The blockage of the gallbladder and/or bile duct may result in jaundice, where the patient observes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, as well as loose stools.

Acute pancreatitis

When the gallbladder stone moves out of the gallbladder and blocks the opening of the pancreas, it may result in inflammation of the pancreas.

Dr Benjamin Yip advises that patients pay attention to gallbladder stones that are large, i.e. 1cm and above. This is because they are at an increased risk of gallbladder cancer and should have their gallbladder removed.

What diet is recommended to prevent Gallbladder Stones?

To prevent gallbladder stones, you may consider the following:

  • Balanced meals thrice daily
  • Maintain a normal weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Consume high-fibre foods
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar

How can I temporarily relieve Gallbladder pain?

You can temporarily relieve gallbladder pain by:

  • Reducing the consumption of fatty, oily and spicy foods
  • Milk thistle, apple cider vinegar and castor oil are said to be home remedies for gallbladder pain, although the effectiveness is not scientifically proven. 
  • Heated compress to the affection region
  • Exercise can reduce cholesterol levels and prevent the formation of gallbladder stones. 


All in all, while gallbladder stones are not immediately life-threatening, it has the potential to progress into a more serious condition. Do seek immediate medical attention from a health professional if you are experiencing pain in your abdomen. It is also highly recommended to go for regular health checkups and exercise regularly to prevent the formation of gallbladder stones. 


  1. Cleveland Clinic (2021). Gallbladder: What Is It, Function, Location & Anatomy. [online] Cleveland Clinic. Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  2. Cleveland Clinic (2019). Gallstones: Treatment, Definition, Risk Factors & Symptoms. [online] Cleveland Clinic. Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  3. NHS Choices (2019). Overview Gallstones. [online] NHS. Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  4. Harvard Health Publishing (2011). What to do about gallstones - Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  5. Mayo Clinic (2018). Gallstones - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  6. Nall, R. (2020). Gallbladder pain: Treatments and home remedies. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].

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Dr Benjamin Yip

Consultant Gastroenterologist
MBBS (Singapore), MRCP (UK), MCI (NUS), FRCP (Edin), FASGE (USA), FAMS (Gastroenterology)

Dr Benjamin Yip is a Consultant Gastroenterologist and the Medical Director of the Alpha Digestive & Liver Centre.

Dr Yip believes that gastrointestinal health is hugely interconnected to our whole-body health and sees patients with General Medical, as well as Gastroenterology and Hepatology problems.

His expertise lies in Advanced Endoscopy, including complex endoscopic procedures such as ERCP, EUS, single balloon enteroscopy, Spyglass cholangioscopy and enteral dilation/stenting.

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