A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop gallstones with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing gallstones. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Men older than the age of 60 and women between the ages of 20 and 60 are at increased risk of developing gallstones. Pregnant women are more likely to have symptomatic gallstones.
Genetic factors play a role in gallstone disease. There is an increased risk of gallstones among first-degree relatives.
Medical conditions associated with gallstones include:
The incidence of gallstones varies widely in different ethnic groups. While the condition is less common among Asians, the incidence is high in the following groups:
- Native Americans, especially Pima Indians, who have the highest rate of gallstones in the United States
- Mexican Americans
- Northern Europeans
A number of drugs are associated with gallstones. The most common are:
- Oral contraceptives
- Hormone replacement therapy (in postmenopausal women)
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs (fibrates)
The following dietary changes increase the risk of developing gallstones:
- Rapid weight loss; which causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into the bile
- Fasting; which decreases gallbladder movement, causing bile to become overly concentrated with cholesterol
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Last reviewed October 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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