Diabetes is a disease known to have many comorbidities, from foot problems to vision problems to heart disease. Research also indicates a strong link between diabetes and gallstones. The risk for gallstones is even higher if you’re a woman who takes birth control pills or if you’re overweight.
Are you experiencing pain in the upper abdomen that lasts hours at a time, and unexplained nausea after eating? If so, it could be a sign of gallstones.
The gallbladder is a small organ attached to the liver that stores bile, a substance that helps you digest fat. Gallstones are made of hardened cholesterol, calcium, and bile.
Below, we asked our experts at Carolina Digestive Health Associates to explain the link between diabetes and gallstones, as well as what can be done about it.
Although there’s a clear link between diabetes and gallstones, researchers aren’t sure of the mechanism that causes gallstones to appear. However, there are a few hypotheses.
Most diabetics have elevated cholesterol and are overweight. Patients who are overweight secrete too much cholesterol in the gallbladder, which sometimes can cause gallstones. Diabetics also have elevated blood triglycerides, which are linked to gallstone formation.
Furthermore, poorly controlled diabetes can lead to nerve damage in the bowels and gallbladder, and this can prevent the gallbladder from contracting properly and eliminating the bile.
Reducing your risk for gallstones begins with better management of your diabetes. This may involve dietary changes, such as reducing your intake of carbohydrates and trans fats, and seeing a specialist to adjust your medications. Receiving personalized advice on managing your blood sugar levels can also be of help.
Fortunately, treating gallstones is a straightforward process. Our experts at Carolina Digestive Health Associates can remove gallstones by making tiny incisions. These incisions are safer for diabetics, as they reduce the risk of bleeding and infection.
Alternatively, if your gallstones continue to reappear, removing the gallbladder, which is a non-essential organ, is another option.
Gallstones that are very small in size can sometimes be eliminated by taking medication that dissolves cholesterol stones with the help of a naturally occurring bile acid.
If you suspect your gallstones are at the root of your symptoms, contact us to schedule an appointment. Our experts will examine your gallbladder and assess its function by using imaging techniques or injecting substances that trigger contractions in the bile.