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What You Need to Know About Gallstones | Affinity Health

Affinity Health, a leading provider of affordable medical insurance, discusses gallstone pancreatitis and its possible complications.


What is Gallstone Pancreatitis?

Gallstone pancreatitis is a painful and sometimes fatal illness. It occurs when a gallstone obstructs your pancreatic duct. This obstruction leads to a build-up of digestive fluids and injury to the pancreas.


Gallstones are most frequently formed in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ in your body. It is responsible for storing and releasing bile to aid digestion.


Most gallstones form when bile chemicals, like cholesterol, clump together. These chemicals solidify to form a hard crystalline mass. Gallstones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Some people develop a single gallstone. Whereas others may get several gallstones simultaneously.

Cholesterol stones:

These are usually yellow-green. They’re the most common, making up 80% of gallstones.

Pigment stones:

These are smaller and darker. They’re made of bilirubin. This is an orange-yellow pigment. It normally occurs when part of your red blood cells breaks down.

Some small gallstones can pass through your body on their own. Others can get stuck in the common bile duct. Gallstones stop pancreatic enzymes from travelling to the small intestine. This forces enzymes to flow back into the pancreas.

Signs and Symptoms of Gallstone Pancreatitis

The most common symptom of gallstone pancreatitis is acute, stabbing pain. This pain frequently occurs in the upper abdomen. Additionally, a person may suffer the following symptoms:

  • Back, shoulder, and chest discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin discolouration, eye discolouration, or both (jaundice)


Have you experienced sharp upper abdominal pain? This acute and stabbing pain is a sign for you to seek immediate medical attention.


Once a doctor diagnoses you with gallstone pancreatitis, you will receive intravenous fluids. Increased fluids decrease your body’s inflammation. This creates a sufficient flow for the stones to pass.


Additionally, healthcare providers may prescribe medication to treat the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


People with mild gallstone pancreatitis may resume eating within a few days. Recovery should follow within the same timeframe. But eating might be difficult for those with severe gallstone pancreatitis. They may need to eat through a tube for an extended period.


Early cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal, may occur in patients with gallstone pancreatitis. Doctors may remove gallstones via endoscopy or surgery.

“The good news is that most people recover from gallstone pancreatitis. But recurring acute pancreatitis may lead to irreversible pancreas damage. This pancreas damage leads to chronic pancreatitis. This chronic disease does not improve. Chronic pancreatitis impairs food digestion. It also hinders insulin generation,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“This is why you must follow all directions from your healthcare provider.”


Take the following steps to decrease the risk of gallstones:

  • Consuming a balanced diet high in fibre, low in fat, and low in sugar.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking and lowering alcohol use
Learn more: Why You Need Fibre

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance. We offer a wide range of cover options at affordable rates. Medical cover includes access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to always give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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