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Are Gallstones Hereditary?
Gallstones are somewhat unique in that they often can happen without the patient showing any symptoms. Many people don’t notice they have one until they feel biliary colic (abdominal pain) that is intense and sharp.
While the leading causes surround patients having a high level of cholesterol or bilirubin, the risks associated with gallstones can vary.
One of those causes which crop up a lot is familial history. Let’s discuss why gallstones may be seen as hereditary, and what factors may play a role in that distinction.
Can gallstones run the family?
Yes. A family can see several members get gallstones at some point in their lives. It will generally apply to older members of the family (essentially anyone over the age of 40).
Why would families have a history of gallstones?
It is believed that a genetic link can be passed down, which leaves members susceptible to getting gallstones.
What exactly gets passed down?
The indication from research centres on some defect in family genes. This defect lends itself to creating a higher level of cholesterol or bilirubin. There is also a possible mutation in genes controlling the movement of cholesterol between the liver and bile duct, which can raise the risk.
If a relative gets gallstones, will I get them?
It is not definite, but merely an indicator to be aware of. If someone in your family is diagnosed with gallstones, no one else should expect to have the same happen to them.
What other factors contribute to gallstones in families?
The standard signals to be aware of within a family can include:
● Weight (overweight people are more likely to get them)
● Crohn’s disease or IBS in the family
Who is more likely in a family to get gallstones?
Gallstones are more common amongst females in the family, although this isn’t necessarily due to genetic issues. Many women experience gallstones if they have previously taken the combined pill or have received oestrogen therapy.
Is ethnicity a factor?
It can play a part. Gallstones are common in the western world, especially amongst European and North American families. Again, some of this is believed to be due to diet and lifestyle choices just as much as family history.
How to know if a family member has gallstones
While someone can have gallstones go unnoticed, when a family member shows some of these symptoms, it can be a signifier of gallstones:
● Upper abdominal pain
● Pain on the right side of the ribs
● Unable to sit comfortably
● Sharp pains in the abdomen after eating a rich or fatty meal
Looking for more information on gallstones?
You can read more on the causes and symptoms of gallstones, as well as how here at OneWelbeck we are treating patients, by visiting our gallstones page.
There is also information on all the conditions our surgical team deals with here.