Gallstones can cause severe abdominal pain – or you may have no symptoms at all. Gallstones, also called cholelithiasis, are a very common problem. It’s most common among women, people older than 40, and Native Americans.
The gallbladder is a sac that stores a compound called bile, which is produced by the liver.
After meals, the gallbladder agreements and releases bile into the intestinal tracts to assist in digestion.
Gallstones occur when among the compounds that comprise the bile (typically cholesterol or a waste product called bilirubin) becomes too concentrated and forms a hard stone.
Often gallstones just sit in the gallbladder and do not cause issues. But in some cases they block the exit from the gallbladder, called the cystic duct.
When this happens, the gallbladder enters into spasms and ends up being swollen, a condition called cholecystitis.
An episode of cholecystitis might solve by itself, or it might advance to a more severe condition involving bacterial infection of the irritated gallbladder.
Causes of Gallstones
Many different elements can cause gallstones. Some possible causes include:
- Excess bilirubin in the bile
- Excess cholesterol in the bile
- A non-stone-related clog in the gallbladder that prevents appropriate emptying
- Low bile concentration of a compound called bile salts
The risk factors for gallstones consist of:
- A household history of gallstones
- Taking medications to lower cholesterol levels
- Having diabetes
- A rapid, big loss of weight
- Taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
- Being pregnant
- Being obese
- Consuming a diet abundant in fat and cholesterol and without enough fiber
It’s not uncommon for gallstones to cause no symptoms at all; they may be found while you’re being screened or evaluated for some other health problem.
However in many people, gallstones can cause the symptoms of cholecystitis, including:
- Abdominal pain in the upper right part of the abdominal area
- Back pain, especially located in between your shoulder blades
- Pain below the right shoulder blade
- Pain in those areas which comes on quickly, worsens, and continues for a minimum of 30 minutes, and even for a few hours
- Fever with chills
- Vomiting and nausea
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
- Stools the color of clay, dark urine, or both (signs of a bile duct blockage).
- Pain that strikes after eating a heavy or fatty meal.
- Indigestion, bloating, and gas.
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s possible that gallstones may be to blame, so it’s important to visit your doctor for a test and to get started on treatment.
Gallstones might also rarely be an indication of gallbladder cancer, so it’s best to obtain the issue correctly diagnosed right away.
If gallstones are thought, your doctor may order an imaging test.
This might include an ultrasound, which uses acoustic waves to imagine the area.
Another procedure, called a HIDA scan, includes injection of a percentage of a harmless radioactive substance.
Sometimes gallstones show up as an incidental finding on other tests, such as an ultrasound or a CT scan, which may reveal a structural change with the gallbladder.
There are a number of options for treating gallstones, depending upon symptoms and how severe they are.
Possible treatment techniques for gallstones include:.
Surgery The gallbladder is typically surgically gotten rid of, however normally just if you experience severe symptoms.
Substantial improvements have actually been made with cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal surgery. It’s now a less-invasive procedure using laparoscopic innovation.
Tiny incisions are made, recovery fasts, and you may not even have to spend the night in the healthcare facility following surgery.
Dietary modifications Your doctor may advise that you change to a healthier, low-fat diet to help relieve your gallstone symptoms.
Medication A couple of types of medications, consisting of oral bile salt therapy, work to slowly break down small gallstones to reduce pain and symptoms.
Painkillers These might be advised to control pain during an intense attack of cholecystitis.
Although uncommon, one treatment strategy may include injecting the gallbladder with a medication called methyl tert-butyl ether, or MTBE, which liquifies the gallstones in a matter of 5 to 12 hours. But there are side effects, consisting of a severe burning pain.