Stones or hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder are called gallstones. The stones or lumps are made up of cholesterol. Gall bladder is an organ situated beneath the liver in the abdomen. Gall bladder collects and stores bile, a combination of fluid, fat and cholesterol. Bile helps in digestion or break down of food. There are two main types of gallstones: cholesterol and pigment gallstones.
- Cholesterol gallstones are the most common and are made of undissolved cholesterol.
- Pigment gallstones are made of bilirubin.
The exact cause of gallstone is unknown. It can be formed when:
- Bile contains too much cholesterol
- Bile contains too much bilirubin,
- Not enough bile salts
- Gall bladder doesn’t empty completely or often enough.
The exact reason for the changes that occur in bile is unknown.
- Other condition that increases the chances of gallstones are:
- Intake of high fat diet
- Intestinal diseases
Gallstones may or may not exhibit symptoms.
- Sudden abdominal pain
- Back pain between shoulders
- Pain in right shoulder
- Dark urine
- Jaundice : yellow skin or eyes
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
- Imaging procedures
- Abdominal and endoscopic ultrasound
- Computerised tomography – CT scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging -MRI
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography – ERCP
Preventive measures and methods to reduce the risk, once affected are:
- Eat high-fiber foods
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Lose weight slowly and safely
- Regular physical activity.
Treatment for gallstones is mostly surgical procedures.
- The surgical procedure mostly used for gallstones is cholecystectomy which means removal of gallbladder.
- Non surgical procedures like oral dissolution therapy and shock wave lithotripsy may be used in situations when a surgery can’t be performed.
- Oral dissolution therapy is the use of medicine that contains bile acids to break down the gallstones.
- Shock wave lithotripsy uses shock waves to break down the gallstones.
- Medications are also used in the treatment of gallstones in conditions where the person can’t undergo surgery. Drugs are used to dissolve the gallstones.
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