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 healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Gender and Age

Men older than the age of 60 and women between the ages of 20 to 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 increase risk of gallstones among first degree relatives.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions associated with gallstones include:

  • Being overweight, even moderately
  • ]]>Diabetes]]> , which generally increases the level of fatty acids, which in turn increases the risk of gallstones
  • Intravenous feeding
  • Diseases of the gallbladder and its ducts
  • Blood diseases, including ]]>sickle cell anemia]]>
  • ]]>Cirrhosis of the liver]]>
  • ]]>Crohn’s disease]]>
  • Previous history of gallstones
  • Resection of ileum
  • Very high triglyeride levels
  • Chronic hemolysis
  • ]]>Hyperparathyroidism]]>
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Spinal cord injury
  • ]]>Gastric bypass]]>
  • Metabolic syndrome

Ethnic Background

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 US
  • 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)
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Octreotide
  • Somastatin


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