Gallstones are formed in the gall bladder when the bilirubin, the cholesterol particles and the calcium salts accumulate and form a solid lump. Generally most of the gall bladder stones are asymptotic i.e. do not cause any health issues or symptoms but some gallstones can cause pain and may even require surgery as the mode of the treatment.
Our body has a pear-shaped sack just below the liver. This sack is known to collect bile that helps in digestion of fats and proteins. This sack is known as gallbladder. Bile is excreted from liver. In the gallbladder when the cholesterol particles, bilirubin, some amount of calcium, proteins cluster to form solid structure known as the gallbladder stone or the gallstones. One in every 5 women and one in every 10 men have gallstones.
Gallstones become problematic if these stones travel into the drainage duct and fail to make their way to the intestine. This causes the blockage due to stone. This in turn leads to the building up of the bile in the gallbladder. It can in some cases block the flow of digestive enzymes coming out of the pancreas and can also cause pancreas infection known as pancreatitis.
How to know about Gallstones presence?
Generally, 80 % of the gallstones do not cause any symptoms. But for some the common symptoms may include pain in the right side of the abdomen, back pain lasting for 15 minutes to few hours. Having issues like nausea, decrease in appetite, gas and sensitivity to fats. Few may have problems like fever infection, jaundice. If any of the symptoms appear it is essential to consult the doctor.
Doctors may ask for X-ray or Ultrasound. But at times there is a need for certain liver function tests, blood test and even CT scan for knowing correct position and size.
Risk factors that influence the gallstone formation:
The factors that increase the risk of the gallstone formation are as follows:
- Age: Numerical studies have found that increased age has high risks of gallstone formation. Gallstone formation is 4 to 5 times higher in elderly people than the young people because of the increase in the biliary cholesterol saturation and decline of the cholesterol hydroxylase enzyme.
- Gender: It is found that women are at higher risk (twice) to have gallstones than men. Increased estrogen levels, usage of hormonal contraceptive medicines, all lead to increased levels of cholesterol levels in the bile. This also decreases the gallbladder movement causing the formation of gall bladder stones.
- Ethnicity: North American natives have higher gallbladder stones prevalence rate of 30 to 70% when compared to less than 5% in Asian and African people.
- Obesity: People who are obese are at higher risk of having gallstones. Due to obesity the cholesterol level increases resulting in the increased formation of the gall bladder stones.
- Having rapid weight loss: People who tend to lose weight rapidly is due to the fact that the liver starts secreting extra cholesterol in large amounts this causes the higher risk of formation of the gall bladder stones.
- Diet: People who tend to eat more fat, and decrease the consumption of fibre are at higher risk of developing gall bladder stones. On the other hand, it is found that those who consume good calcium diet don’t have such higher risk of developing gall bladder stones as calcium tends to decrease the saturation of the cholesterol in the gall bladder.
- Physical activities: People who chose sedentary lifestyle are at higher risk of developing gallbladder stones when compared to the people who are physically active and are having proper weight management plan.
- Diabetes: Generally, in diabetic patient the levels of the fatty acids are high which increases the risk of the gallbladder stones.
Gallstones treatment thus varies from one condition to condition, gallstone size and the patient health history.
Non-surgical gallstone treatment: this is a preferred mode of treatment if the stones are cholesterol stones and that the patient is not in health condition to undergo surgery.
In non-surgical gallstones treatment, the health practitioner may use endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to remove the gallstone that is stuck in the bile duct area. The health practitioner may prefer oral dissolution therapy where in medicines are given that help in breaking the gallstones.
Surgical gallstone treatment is called as cholecystectomy wherein the doctor may prefer laparoscopic cholecystectomy or an open cholecystectomy. Mostly the gallstone surgery treatment is safe and its complications are minimal.
Gallstone treatment varies as per the condition health condition and the gallstone type and size. Generally surgery is widely preferred method as it is safer and effective. Generally it is possible that the gallstones may form again and thus surgery ensures that the gallbladder stones formation is prevented by removing gallbladder. Numerous health studies have concluded that eating high fiber diets, following a healthy nutritional plan, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and maintaining proper weight reduces the risks of the gall bladder stone formation.