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Gallstones

Definition


Disease: Gallstones Gallstones
Category: Genito-urinary diseases

Disease Definition:

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of the abdomen, just beneath the liver. It holds bile, a digestive fluid that is released into the small intestine.

 

Gallstones, which could form in the bladder, are hardened deposits of digestive fluid. Gallstones could range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Although some people develop many gallstones at the same time, however, others may develop only one gallstone.

 

Usually, gallstones that don't cause any signs or symptoms don't need any treatment. However, usually a gallbladder removal surgery is needed in case gallstones show signs and symptoms.

 

Work Group:


Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

Sometimes, gallstones don't cause any signs or symptoms. However, when a gallstone lodges in a duct and causes a blockage, these may be some of the resulting signs and symptoms:

 

  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • Sudden pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen, which rapidly intensifies
  • Back pain between the shoulder blades
  • Sudden pain in the center of the abdomen, just below the breastbone, which rapidly intensifies.

 

The pain of gallstone could last several minutes or it could linger for a few hours.

 

A person should see your doctor in case they experience worrisome signs or symptoms. However, if someone develops signs and symptoms of a serious gallstone complication, they should seek immediate medical care. Some of these signs and symptoms are:

 

  • High fever with chills
  • Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Abdominal pain, which will be so severe that it won't allow the person to sit still or find a comfortable position.

Causes:

Although it is still not clear what exactly causes gallstones to form, however, doctors think that gallstones could form in case:

 

  • The bile contains too much cholesterol: The cholesterol that is in the bile has nothing to do with the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Most of the time, enough chemicals are found in the bile in order to dissolve the cholesterol excreted by the liver. However, cholesterol could form into crystals and eventually into stones in case the bile contains more cholesterol than can be dissolved.
  • The bile contains too much bilirubin: When the body breaks down red blood cells, a chemical called bilirubin is produced. Liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infections and certain blood disorders are some of the conditions that could cause the liver to make too much bilirubin.
  • The gallbladder doesn't empty correctly: Bile could become very concentrated if the gallbladder doesn't empty completely or often enough. In fact, this contributes to the formation of gallstones.

 

TYPES OF GALLSTONES:

Listed below are some of the types of gallstones that could form in the gallbladder:

Cholesterol gallstones:

These gallstones are composed mainly of undissolved cholesterol, but they could also have other components. These are the most common type of gallstones and appear yellow in color.

Pigment gallstones:

When the bile contains too much bilirubin these stones form, which are dark brown or black.
 

Complications

Complications:

Some of the complications of gallstones include:

Blockage of the common bile duct:

The tubes or ducts, through which bile flows from the gallbladder or liver to the small intestine, could be blocked due to gallstones. This could result in cholangitis which is infection of the bile duct, or jaundice.

Inflammation of the gallbladder:

Cholecystitis, which is the inflammation of the gallbladder, could be caused when a gallstone becomes lodged in the neck of the gallbladder. Severe pain and fever result from this inflammation.

Gallbladder cancer:

This risk of gallbladder cancer is increased in people with a history of gallstones. However, although the risk of cancer is increased in these people, the likelihood of cancer is still very small because gallbladder cancer is very rare.

Blockage of the pancreatic duct:

Pancreatic juices that aid in digestion flow through the pancreatic duct, which runs from the pancreas to the common bile duct. A blockage in the pancreatic duct could be caused by a gallstone, leading to inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis, which requires hospitalization and causes intense, constant abdominal pain.
 

Treatments:

Usually, gallstones that don't cause any signs or symptoms don't require treatment, such as those detected during an ultrasound or CT scan done for some other condition.

 

A person may be recommended being alert for signs and symptoms of gallstone complications, such as intensifying pain in the upper right abdomen. A person may undergo treatment in case gallstone signs and symptoms occur in the future. However, most people with gallstones that don't cause any signs or symptoms won't need any treatment.

 

TREATMENT FOR GALLSTONES THAT CAUSE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:

Some of the treatment options for these kinds of gallstones include:

Medications to dissolve gallstones:

In order to help dissolve gallstones, a person may take oral medications. However, this method takes months or even years to dissolve the gallstones. There's an experimental treatment in which gallstone medications are directly injected into the gallbladder in order to dissolve the gallstones faster. It is still not clear whether this procedure is safe and effective. When people can't undergo surgery for gallstones, they could receive medications for gallstones.

Cholecystectomy:

Because gallstones frequently recur, a person may be recommended surgery to remove the gallbladder. After the gallbladder is removed, bile, instead of being stored in the gallbladder, will flow from the liver directly to the small intestine. Although the removal of gallbladder could cause diarrhea, however, it doesn't affect the person's ability to digest food, and a person can live without a gallbladder.
 

Prognosis:

Not available

Expert's opinion

Expert's Name:
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