Gallstones can be defined as hardened deposits of digestive fluid. These deposits normally form in the gallbladder of the individual. The gallbladder is essentially an organ that is small in size, pear-shaped, and is located on the right side of the abdomen right below the liver. It functions to hold bile, which is a digestive fluid that is usually released into the small intestine.
Gallstones have different sizes, from the size of a grain to the size of a golf ball. An individual may develop a single gallstone or develop several gallstones simultaneously.
Types of Gallstones
There are normally two main types of gallstones:
Cholesterol stones – These tend to be yellow-green in color and happen to be the most common type. This is because they constitute up to 80% of gallstones.
Pigment stones – These are a bit darker and smaller in size compared to the cholesterol stones mentioned above. They are comprised of a product of bile referred to as bilirubin. Bilirubin is a fluid the liver manufactures and the gallbladder stores.
How Gallstones Form
It is believed that gallstones form or develop as a result of an imbalance of bile’s chemical makeup in the gallbladder. In a majority of cases, cholesterol levels in bile rise and this results in the excess cholesterol transforming into gallstones. They form inside the gallbladder when bilirubin particles or cholesterol commence clustering together to form a solid lump. The stone or lump grows in size as it is continuously washed over by more bile fluid.
There are several risk factors associated with gallstones. The main ones include the following:
- A family with a history of gallstones. It is a genetic matter to some extent.
- Taking of medications meant to lower levels of cholesterol.
- Being diagnosed with diabetes.
- Being pregnant.
- Being obese or overweight.
- A rapid loss of body weight.
- Participating in hormonal replacement therapy or taking birth control pills.
- Consumption of a diet that is enriched with cholesterol and fat, especially one that lacks adequate fiber.
- Those 40 years old and above tend to be at a higher risk of getting gallbladder.
Symptoms Of Gallstones
Gallstones are known to cause symptoms the moment that they are caught or become stuck in the gallbladder’s narrow outlet or, alternatively, inside the ducts that function to drain out the gallbladder. A majority of people with gallstones lack any symptoms and don’t require treatment.
However, when gallstones cause symptoms, they may be as follows:
- Abdominal pain on the right and upper side of the abdomen. This pain has been known to radiate to the back of the patient. Pain caused by gallstones is often steady but can occasionally increase intensity. By experience and observation, it has been established to last between fifteen minutes to a couple hours whenever it occurs.
- Great sensitivity to meals that are high in fat. This is because fats are a trigger to the contraction of the gallbladder and can result in excruciating pain.
- A general decrease in an individual’s appetite.
- Pain that is localized between the shoulder blades.
- Pain just below the right shoulder blade.
- Stool with a characteristic clay color.
Gallstones have been known to occasionally cause severe complications, such as pancreatitis and infections in the bile ducts or gall bladder. These complications may be exhibited by severe abdominal pain, jaundice, and even fever. Jaundice causes the whites of the eyes and color of the skin to become yellow.
What To Do If You Think That You May Have Gallstones
Individuals who suspect that they might have gallstones should go to a doctor for a diagnosis. This will be done via an imaging test. Such imaging tests include the following:
- Ultrasound – This employs sound waves so that the area may be effectively visualized.
- X-rays – The oral cholecystogram test also known as OCG uses x-rays to display the gallbladder after a pill that contains a dye is swallowed by a patient.
- HIDA scan – This involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive substance that is harmless.
Gallstones may also be picked up by other tests such as a CT scan.
Gallstone Removal Treatments
After a patient has undergone any one or more of the tests earlier mentioned and is found to be positive, he or she should immediately start treatment. There are several gallstone removal treatments that are available to patients. These include the following:
- Surgery – The gallbladder can be surgically removed in cases where the patient is experiencing symptoms that are severe. Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery) is becoming more advanced and is now done through a procedure that is less invasive. The procedure uses laparoscopic technology. It entails the making of small incisions and is characterized by a speedy recovery.
- Dietary changes – The doctor will normally recommend that patients switch to a diet that is healthier and low in fat. This assists in relieving the symptoms of gallstones.
- Medication – There are a couple of medications that can be used in the treatment of gallstones. A good example is bile salts that gradually disintegrate small gallstones so as to ease both the symptoms and the pain.
- Lithotripsy – This treatment involves the direct aiming of sound waves at gallstones so as to disintegrate them into small fragments. This is followed up by medication that dissolves the tiny fragments.
- Painkillers – These are meant to control pain associated with a sharp attack of cholecystitis.
There are a number of ways by which the formation of a gallstone may be prevented. They are as follows:
- Work to maintain weight. Those who are overweight are at a higher risk of gallstones.
- Individuals who diet should avoid diets that cause rapid weight loss. For instance, diets that restrict people to just under 500 calories in a single day.
- Women should avoid the use of estrogen or birth control pills.
Gallstone Removal Treatments Conclusion
Gallstones may be a strong indication that an individual is developing gallbladder cancer. This is why it is very important to have the problem correctly diagnosed immediately. The above insightful information regarding Gallstone removal treatments can act as a guide to help you lead a healthy lifestyle that will help to steer you away from developing gallstones.