Gall bladder stone disease
What are gallbladder stones?
Gallbladder (also spelt as gallbladder) is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath the liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid called bile that's released into the small intestine. Gall bladder stones (also known as gallstones) are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in the gallbladder. Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people develop just one gallstone, while others develop many gallstones at the same time.
People who experience symptoms from their gallstones usually require gallbladder removal surgery. Gallstones that don't cause any signs and symptoms typically don't need treatment.
What are the symptoms of gallbladder stones?
- Silent gallstones do not cause any symptoms.
- Symptomatic gallstones causes one or more of these symptoms:
- Biliary colic: Pain in right side of upper abdomen, especially after meals, lasting several minutes to a few hours.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Back pain between your shoulder blades
- Pain in your right shoulder
- Acute cholecystitis: Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen
- Acute pancreatitis: Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the center of your abdomen, just below your breastbone
What are the types of gallstones?
Types of gallstones that can form in the gallbladder include:
- Cholesterol gallstones. The most common type of gallstone, called a cholesterol gallstone, often appears yellow in color. These gallstones are composed mainly of undissolved cholesterol, but may contain other components.
- Pigment gallstones. These dark brown or black stones form when your bile contains too much bilirubin.
What are the risk factors for gallstones?
Factors that may increase your risk of gallstones include:
- Being female
- Being age 40 or older
- Being overweight or obese
- Being sedentary
- Being pregnant
- Eating a high-fat diet
- Eating a high-cholesterol diet
- Eating a low-fiber diet
- Having a family history of gallstones
- Having diabetes
- Losing weight very quickly
- Taking medications that contain estrogen, such as oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs
- Having liver disease
What are the complications of gallstones?
Complications of gallstones may include:
- Inflammation of the gallbladder: A gallstone that becomes lodged in the neck of the gallbladder can cause inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). Cholecystitis can cause severe pain and fever.
- Blockage of the common bile duct: Gallstones can block the tubes (ducts) through which bile flows from your gallbladder or liver to your small intestine. Jaundice and bile duct infection can result.
- Blockage of the pancreatic duct: The pancreatic duct is a tube that runs from the pancreas to the common bile duct. Pancreatic juices, which aid in digestion, flow through the pancreatic duct. A gallstone can cause a blockage in the pancreatic duct, which can lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Pancreatitis causes intense, constant abdominal pain and usually requires hospitalization.
- Gallbladder cancer: People with a history of gallstones have an increased risk of gallbladder cancer. But gallbladder cancer is very rare, so even though the risk of cancer is elevated, the likelihood of gallbladder cancer is still very small.
How are gallstones diagnosed?
Tests and procedures used to diagnose gallstones include:
- Tests to create pictures of your gallbladder. Your doctor may recommend an abdominal ultrasound or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to create pictures of your gallbladder. These images can be analyzed to look for signs of gallstones. Ultrasound is better than CT scan in picking up stones.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Blood tests to look for complications. Blood tests may reveal an infection, jaundice, pancreatitis or other complications caused by gallstones.
What is the treatment of gall bladder stones?
For silent gallstones:
Most people with gallstones that don't cause symptoms will never need treatment. Your doctor will determine if treatment for gallstones is indicated based on your symptoms and the results of diagnostic testing.Your doctor may recommend you be alert for symptoms of gallstone complications, such as intensifying pain in your upper right abdomen. If gallstone signs and symptoms occur in the future, you can have treatment.
Treatment options for symptomatic gallstones include:
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder, since gallstones frequently recur. Once your gallbladder is removed, bile flows directly from your liver into your small intestine, rather than being stored in your gallbladder.You don't need your gallbladder to live, and gallbladder removal doesn't affect your ability to digest food, but it can cause diarrhea, which is usually temporary.
- Medications to dissolve gallstones. Medications you take by mouth may help dissolve gallstones. But it may take months or years of treatment to dissolve your gallstones in this way and gallstones will likely form again if treatment is stopped.Sometimes medications don't work. Medications for gallstones aren't commonly used and are reserved for people who can't undergo surgery.