Gallstones are small stones made up of cholesterol which deposits in the gallbladder. Gallbladder is a small, pear shaped organ located on the right side of abdomen and beneath the liver. Its main function is to store and concentrate bile which is a yellow-brown digestive enzyme produced by the liver.
The size of gallstones is different. Gallstones size ranges from sand grain to golf ball. Some people can develop just one gallstone while some people develop many numbers of gallstones.
Types of gallstones:
- Cholesterol gallstones: This is the most common type of gallstone. It is yellow in color. These gallstones are composed of mainly un-dissolved cholesterol but other components are also included
- Pigment gallstones: These stones are smaller and darker. Pigment gallstones are made up of bilirubin which comes from bile.
Symptoms of Gallstones:
- Sudden and rapidly increasing pain in the upper right portion of abdomen and below the
- Pain in your right shoulder
- Back pain between shoulder blades
- Nausea or vomiting
- Digestive problems such as bloating, indigestion, heartburn and gas.a
Causes of Gallstones:
- Too much cholesterol in bile: Normally bile contains sufficient chemicals to dissolve cholesterol discharged by liver. But if liver discharges more cholesterol than the capacity of bile to dissolve then the excess cholesterol converts into hard stones. This is known as gallstone.
- Too much bilirubin in bile: Due to liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infections and certain blood disorders liver produces large amount of bilirubin. This excess bilirubin forms gallstones.
- Gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly: If gallbladder doesn’t empty completely then bile becomes very hard. This hardened bile finally helps in the formation of gallstones.
Risk factors in gallstones formation:
- Age above 40
- Overweight or obesity
- Pregnant woman
- High fat, high cholesterol and low fiber food
- Family history of gallstones
- Diabetes and liver diseases
Diagnosis of gallstones:
Various tests and procedures are used to diagnose gallbladder.
- Blood test
- CT scan and MRI scan
- Hepatobiliary Iminodiacetic Acid (HIDA) scan and Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
Treatment of gallstones:
- Surgery: Laparoscipic cholecystectomy is the most common surgical process. In this procedure, surgeon inserts small instrument and camera through many small cuts in the belly. This is the most advanced technique to remove gallstones. It has benefits such as speedy recovery, less blood loss and less pain. Open cholecystectomy is the conventional surgery. In this surgery, surgeon makes bigger cuts in the belly to remove gallstones. This type of surgery has drawbacks such as more recovery time, more blood loss and painful treatment.
Medicines: GI surgeon prescribes medicines at the first stage. Medicines are taken orally to dissolve gallstones. This is a long term treatment.