An Overview of Gallstones

Let’s start with some interesting facts about gallstones:

•    The gallbladder is an organ found close to the lower side of the liver.

•    Stones are the results of a chemical mix up in the gallbladder.

•    People with excess weight have a higher risk of forming stones.

•    Experts found that a high-fiber, low-fat diet may help prevent gallstones.

•    Two common types of gallstones among sufferers — cholesterol stones (which make up a good part of gallstones) and pigment stones (which is made up of bilirubin, a component common in bile).

•    In the US, this is the profile of gallstone sufferers: there are 20 million of them; there are more women than men; most of them are 40 years of age, and it afflicts people with a high prevalence of gallstone formation in their family tree.

Causes

Gallstone formation initially begins with the production of bile in the liver. It is housed in the gallbladder until it is deposited to the small intestine; it aids in the digestion of fat-soluble vitamins and fats.

As mentioned, gallstones are the result of chemicals getting jumbled in the bile transportation process. Cholesterol stones occur when bile has excessive cholesterol or bilirubin, or may also be due to a low amount of bile salts. Scientists have not yet determined why these changes occur in the bile. Gallstones may also form if the gallbladder is not emptied properly or frequently enough.

Some people have a higher risk of gallstones due to certain factors, such as obesity and certain kinds of dieting. Sudden changes in weight, due to an operation or a pregnancy, may also increase the likelihood of gallstones.

Symptoms

Oddly enough, gallstones may not show obvious symptoms. If gallstone formation gets worse, such as lodging in a duct and consequently causing a blockage, the symptoms and signs may include:

•    Pulsating pain in the abdominal area just below the breastbone

•    Irritating pain between the shoulder blades

•    Sensation in the right shoulder

•    Dizziness or nausea

Pain from gallstones can last from a few minutes up to several hours.

When to see a doctor

If you develop symptoms due to the presence of gallstones, seek medical care as soon as possible. Watch out for these signs:

•    Throbbing or intense pain, preventing you from finding a less painful position

•    Jaundice

•    Chills, high fever

Treatment & medication

If a person has a few symptoms or none at all, and if they have few or small stones, then they can take medication. Some medications dissolve cholesterol in the gallbladder. Some treatments need up to six months to work, and gallstones, unfortunately, can still occur in sufferers who are actively taking medication.

Surgery is the second option or the last resort for those people with severe symptoms. Indeed, many people have opted to have their gallbladder surgically removed rather than cope with gallbladder stone attacks. This minimally-invasive process usually allows the patients to leave the hospital immediately after the operation.  After the procedure, the liver still produces bile and passes through the bile duct on its way into the intestine.

Prevention

As always, a healthy lifestyle and proper diet are the starting point of a gallstone-free life. Gallstones occur most often among overweight people and those who shed their weight too quickly. Science still has a lot to learn with regards to the formation of gallstones. However, our lifestyle, most especially an active and healthy one, will positively help reveal new ideas about gallstone formation.