Treatment (medication)

You can take medicine to dissolve your gallstones. But only if your gallstones are small and don't contain calcium.

The medicine is called ursodeoxycholic acid. It's a tablet.

These tablets are not prescribed very often. This is because:

  • they're rarely very effective
  • they need to be taken for up to 2 years
  • gallstones can come back once you stop treatment

Side effects of medicine for gallstones

Side effects are uncommon. They're usually mild. The most reported side effects are:

  • feeling sick
  • being sick
  • itchy skin

Ursodeoxycholic acid isn't usually recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The medicine may also affect types of oral contraceptive pills.

Is is sometimes also prescribed as a precaution against gallstones.

Your GP may prescribe these tablets if you've recently had weight loss surgery. This is because rapid weight loss can cause gallstones to grow.

Diet and gallstones

You should adopt a healthy and balanced diet. This involves eating a variety of foods – including moderate amounts of fat.

A healthy diet won't cure gallstones or completely end your symptoms. It can improve your general health and help control pain caused by gallstones.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 22 December 2020
Next review due: 22 December 2023

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