The gallbladder is an abdominal organ located on the right side of the abdomen, under the liver. It stores bile, a digestive enzyme produced by the liver, prior to its entry into the intestines through a tube called the bile duct.
Bile is made up of water, fats, cholesterol, proteins, bile salts and bilirubin. However, when bile has too much cholesterol, bilirubin or bile salts, the liquid can harden into stones.
There are two major types of gallstones, cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones are, as their name indicates, comprised largely of hardened cholesterol from bile; they are the most common type of gallstones. Pigment stones tend to be smaller and comprised mostly of bilirubin.
Symptoms of gallstones can include steady upper abdominal pain, back pain under the right shoulder, gas, belching, nausea or bloating, especially after consuming fatty meals. A gastroenterologist can diagnose gallstones, and the most common treatment for them is surgery. Every year, over half a million Americans have their gallbladders removed and go on to live healthfully.