Gallstones are hard deposits that form in your gallbladder — a small, pear-shaped sack that stores and secretes bile for digestion. More than 25 million people in the United States have gallstones, with nearly one million new cases of gallstone disease diagnosed every year — approximately one-quarter of which require treatment, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. Gallstones can form when there’s too much cholesterol or waste in your bile, or if your gallbladder doesn’t empty properly.
When gallstones block the ducts leading from your gallbladder to your intestines, they can cause sharp pain in your upper-right abdomen. Medications sometimes dissolve gallstones, but if that doesn’t work, the next step is surgery to remove the gallbladder.