These are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that form in gallbladder. Gall bladder is a small pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, beneath the liver. It holds the digestive fluid called bile that gets released in the small intestine. The size of gallstones can be small or big. In some people, there is only one gallstone found and in others, many are found at the same time. Those people who experience symptoms from their gallbladder require gallbladder removal surgery. Gallstones that don’t cause any signs and symptoms don’t need any treatment.
Signs and symptoms of gallstones-
- Gallstones usually do not cause any signs and symptoms but if it lodges in a duct and causes blockage, the resulting signs and symptoms may include-
- Intensifying pain in upper right portion of abdomen and its center below breast bone
- Back pain between the shoulder blades
- Pain in right shoulder
- Nausea or vomiting
- Gallstone pain lasts several minutes to few hours
- Abdominal pain is so intense that one can’t sit in a comfortable position
- Yellowing of skin and white of eye
- High fever with chills
Causes of gallstones-
- If the liver excretes more cholesterol than the bile can dissolve, excess of this cholesterol forms crystals that develop into stones.
- If bile contains too much bilirubin produced in some liver diseases then it contributes to gallstones formation.
- If bile is concentrated due to incomplete emptying of gallbladder, then it leads to gallstones formation.
Types of gallstones that form in bladder-
- Cholesterol gallstones
- Pigment gallstones
Cholesterol gallstones are the most common types, and are composed of undissolved cholesterol and other components. Pigment gallstones are formed when bile contains too much bilirubin.
Risk factors for gallstone formation-
- Females are prone
- Age of 40 years or more are more prone
- Being overweight
- Being sedentary
- High cholesterol diet
- Family history
- Blood disorders
- Certain medications
- Liver disease
- Losing weight suddenly
Complications of gallstones-
- Cholecystitis due to gallstone lodgement can cause pain and fever
- Gallstones can block bile duct leading to pain, jaundice and bile duct infection
- Gallstones can block pancreatic duct leading to pancreatitis
- People with history of gallstones have a risk of gallbladder cancer
Diagnosis of gallstones-
- Blood tests
- CT scan
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography or MRCP
- Cholescintigraphy or HIDA scan
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or ERCP
- Endoscopic ultrasound
Treatment of Gallstones-
- Laparoscopic cholecystectomy
- Open cholecystectomy
- Non-surgical therapy
Prevention of gallstones-
- Don’t skip meals
- Lose weight slowly
- Eat high fiber diet
- Maintain healthy weight
- Avoid refined carbs, sugar and unhealthy fats
- Avoid use of hormonal birth control if you are a woman being at more risk of gallstones.
Women more at risk of developing gallstones-
The main reason why women tend to be more affected by gallstones is due to differences in hormone production between both sexes. There are two hormones produced in women that make a difference and these are estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen hormone helps to increase the amount of cholesterol in bile and it is this cholesterol that is responsible for gallstone formation. Progesterone is a hormone that is involved in the menstrual cycle and slows down the process of emptying the bladder. If gallbladder cannot release bile properly so the gallstones can get stuck in the bile duct instead of being passed. So gallstones develop in this way more females.
Gallstones in stools or poop-
Gallstones are excreted in stool unlike the kidney stones which are expelled through the urinary tract. Tiny gallstones are seen after bowel movement in the toilet. Gallstones are usually diamond-shaped and yellowish but come in any shape, size or color.
Foods to avoid for gallbladder problems-
It is advisable to avoid foods with high saturated content such as meat pies, sausages, fatty cuts of meat, butter, ghee, lard, cream, hard cheeses, cakes, biscuits, foods containing coconut and palm oil etc. A healthy and balanced diet is recommended with plenty of healthy foods for gallbladder such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains to avoid gallstones formation. Below mentioned are some foods to choose from and avoid-
Healthful diet: A high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juice, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts, spices, and legumes.
Unhealthful diet: A high intake of processed meat, soft drinks, refined grains, red meat, high-fat dairy products, sugar, tea, solid fat, baked potato, snacks, egg, salt, pickled food, and sauerkraut.
Fruit that dissolves gallstones-
Apple juice is believed to treat gallstones as it softens the gallstones and helps the patient pass the stones.
- Gallstones may go on their own but typically they require treatment.
- People can live a normal life without gallbladder or after removal of gallbladder.
- Cholelithiasis is a condition of having gallstones.
- Many people have gallstones and do not know about it.
- They are common in developed countries and affect 10% adults and 20% people who are aged over 65 years.
- Only 20% of people diagnosed with gallstones will need treatment.
- Anyone can get gallstones but they are more common in people who are above 40 years of age.
- Gallstones grow very gradually.
- It takes 10-20 years for gallstones to grow large and cause obstruction.
- They are more common in females.
- People having metabolic syndrome with a triad of factors such as overweight, high blood triglycerides and insulin resistance contribute to cholesterol gallstones.
- Spreading information and awareness about gallstones
- Support and care to prevent, diagnose and treat the disorder