Gallstones are a common problem among many patients today. They can create a good amount of pain and a hard to get rid of once you get them. The best thing is to prevent gallstones as opposed to dealing with them once you get them.
What are gallstones? How do we get them? Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that develop in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located below your liver. Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. This liquid is called bile helps the body digest fats. The bile is actually made in the liver shunted into gallbladder until the body needs it. The gallbladder will contract and push the bile into the common bile duct that carries it to the small intestine where it starts to get digested. Bile is made of water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, proteins, and bilirubin. Bile salts break up fat, and if the liquid bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, it can harden into gallstones.
There are two types of gallstones cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones make up for about 80 percent of the gallstones. Cholesterol stones are yellow-green and are made primarily of hardened cholesterol. They account for about 80 percent of gallstones. Pigmented stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder can develop just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or a combination of the two.
Who gets gallstones? You are at greater risk to develop gallstones if you are female, overweight, older and some have a genetic predisposing to develop the stones. Also a rapid weight loss or eating a very low calorie diet will also put you at risk for developing the gallstones. If you are eating too much cholesterol or fatty foods you are at risk for developing the gallstones. Diabetics are more likely to have problems with gallstones.
What type of symptoms can one develop if your gallbladder is not working correctly?
- Chronic indigestion
- Upper abdominal pain that can last about 30 minutes to several hours. Gallbladder pain usually starts in your upper middle or upper right abdomen and may shift your back or right shoulder blade.
- Nausea and vomiting which will accompany a gallbladder attack.
- Fever along with persistent gallbladder pain.
- Signs of a bile duct obstruction includes: yellowing of your skin, clay-colored stools and fever.
The most common ways to diagnosis a problem with your gallbladder:
- Physical exam
- Blood work
- CT scan
What happens after you have found out that you have gallstones? What is the treatment for gallstones?
- Nonsurgical options include the following: Bile salt tablets. The treatment works best on small cholesterol stones, but is only effective about 50 percent of the time.
Sound wave therapy (extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy).
This treatment uses high-frequency sound waves to break up gallstones.
Percutaneous electrohydraulic lithotripsy.
This procedure relies on a catheter that’s inserted into the gallbladder several weeks prior to the treatment. A small probe is inserted into the catheter to deliver short bursts of energy to break up the stones.
Topical gallstone dissolution.
In this procedure, a small catheter is inserted into the gallbladder. A solution that dissolves cholesterol gallstones is then delivered through the catheter into the gallbladder over a several hour period. Prevention is the best way to deal with gallstones. Maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding crash diets, exercise and choosing a low-fat, high fiber diet.
Remember if you have any of the following symptoms see your doctor immediately:
- prolonged pain—more than 5 hours
- nausea and vomiting
- fever—even low-grade—or chills
- yellowish color of the skin e. clay-colored stools