Gallstones occur in up to 20 per cent women and 10 per cent men by the age of 60, said P.Radhakrishna, consultant surgical gastroentrologist, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, here on Sunday. He told presspersons that women between the age of 20 and 60 are three times more likely to develop gallstones than men. Women who have had multiple pregnancies are also likely to develop gallstones. "The risk of gallstones increases with age and obesity," Dr.Radhakrishnan said.

The gallbladder is a sac that sits beneath the liver, and stores and concentrates bile, produced by the liver. After eating food, the gallbladder contracts and releases bile into the small intestine where it helps to digest fats. Gallstones are solid clumps of cholesterol crystals or pigment material that form in the gallbladder.

There are different types of gallstones depending on what component of the bile has solidified. Almost 90 per cent of the gallstones are composed of cholesterol.

Several gallstone therapies are available with symptomatic gallstones. Patients with symptomatic gallstones experience severe abdominal pain, and may suffer further complications such as jaundice, inflammation of the gallbladder, bile ducts, liver, or pancreas. About 80 per cent of the gallstones have no symptoms.