What are Gallbladder Stones?
Understanding Gall Stones:
Gallbladder is a small organ situated near the Liver. The function of gallbladder is to store and release bile into the small intestine. Bile is a digestive juice that is important for the metabolism of fat. Bile is made up of cholesterol, salts, bilirubin, water along with some other substances. It has a certain solubility and concentration. Due to some reasons, the bile can concentrated or thick and form hard pebble like stones called gall stones.
- Cholesterol stones: These are made predominantly of precipitated cholesterol. Pure cholesterol stones are not common as gall stones mostly have other substances combined.
- Pigmented stones: These are formed due to excess of bilirubin. They combine with calcium ions to form stones.
- Mixed stones: This is the most common variety. These stones are made up of cholesterol, calcium salts, proteins, etc.
Gall stones are very common and affect about 10 million cases every year in India.
What are the causes and risk factors for Gallbladder Stones?
- Gallbladder problems: Stasis of bile in gallbladder, incomplete emptying of bile and infection of gallbladder can cause the formation of stones.
- Increased cholesterol formation like in obesity and women taking OC pills.
- Diseases of the small intestine like infections
- Diseases like sickle cell anaemia, malaria, etc increase the risk of gall stone formation
- Conditions like pregnancy, estrogen therapy and high calorie diet can also increase the risk of gall stone formation
What are the symptoms of Gallbladder Stones?
Most often these can have no symptoms. But the following can be some signs:
- Sudden severe pain in the right upper abdominal region few hours after a meal. Pain can also be felt in the back, chest and shoulder. It goes away on its own in a while and comes back at unpredictable times.
- Pain on lying down (mostly at night while sleeping)
- Fever may exist
What are the complications with Gallbladder Stones?
- Infection of gallbladder, bile duct, pancreas, etc.
- Intestinal obstruction
- Discomfort in the stomach
How are Gallbladder Stones diagnosed?
- Ultrasound, X Ray and CT Scan of the abdomen to visualize gall stones
- ERCP: An investigation performed if gall stones are not visible by ultrasound
- Blood tests
How is Gallbladder Stones treated?
Treatment is mostly surgical and involves removal of the gallbladder. This is because gall stones tend to recur and gallbladder’s absence doesn’t impact much on the normal physiology. Surgery is mostly done laproscopically.
What are the lifestyle changes required to prevent Gallbladder Stones?
- Eat less fatty food and control obesity
- Consult a doctor before taking OC pills and estrogen therapy.
- The recommended post-operative care suggested by the doctor should be followed to prevent infections.
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