How are gallstones formed?
Gallstones can be defined as the deposition of excessive bile, bilirubin or cholesterol in the bile duct. The size of gallstones may vary from individual to individual. According to Harvard Health publications, 80% of gallstones are developed as a result of excessive cholesterol deposition while the rest are formed due to deposition of calcium or bilirubin.
Here are several ways in which gallstones are formed.
- If the cholesterol content in bile is more than optimal level then it may lead to cholesterol stones that appear yellow in color
- In the situations of liver damage, excess bilirubin is produced in the liver. When the gallbladder fails to break down the excess bilirubin, pigment gallstones are formed.
- The gallbladder acts as the primary reservoir of bile and transfers the bile to the small intestine through the bile duct. In the cases of blockage in the bile duct or malfunctioning of the gallbladder, the bile keeps on piling in the gallbladder. This leads to bile concentration and gallstones are formed.
- Anyone is prone to gallstones; however, there are certain medical, lifestyle and uncontrollable risk factors for gallstones.
The medical risk factors are:
- Individuals with Cirrhosis, a condition of liver damage
- Pregnancy in women
- Individuals under medication for controlling cholesterol
- Individuals consuming medication with a higher estrogen content
The uncontrollable risk factors are:
- Compared to males, females are more prone to gallstones
- Native American or Mexican-Americans
- Individuals with a family history of gallstones
- Aging – individuals above 60 years of age.
The lifestyle risk factors are:
- Individuals with obesity
- Individuals with high-fat and low-fiber diet
- Individuals who have experienced a rapid weight loss
- Individuals with diabetes mellitus
In some cases, gallstones may not reveal symptoms, this is known as silent stones. In other cases, individuals may experience moderate to high abdominal pain that may persist for a longer duration. Identifying gallstones on time is critical to ensure necessary treatment.
Gallstones are diagnosed through
- Ultrasound scan
- Blood tests
- Endoscopy Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
- Gallbladder radionuclide scan
Moderate cases of gallstones can be treated with medication. However, surgical interventions are recommended in the acute cases of gallstones. Medical practitioners recommend treatment methods based on the cause and intensity of the symptoms of gallstones.
Some of the common gallstones symptoms are:
- The sensation of nausea, vomiting
- Persistent stomach pain
- Discoloration of urine and stool
Some of the complications and long-term risks associated with gallstones are
- Acute Cholecystitis: The condition in which the gallstones block the bile duct leading to blockage of bile flow. Symptoms of acute cholecystitis include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and intense pain in the upper stomach or mid-right back.
- Jaundice in adults is a common symptom of gallbladder stone
- Cholangitis, a condition of bile duct infection
- Sepsis, a condition of acute blood infection
- Pancreatitis, a condition of pancreas inflammation
- Gallbladder cancer
Surgical interventions might not be necessary for all the cases of gallstones. There are two types of surgery, open and laparoscopic cholecystectomy to remove the dysfunctional gallbladder form the body. Both surgeries are performed with a mild to deep incision and under the administration of general anesthesia. While individuals who have undergone the open surgery may require 6 to 8 weeks to recover, individuals who have undergone laparoscopic surgery have a relatively quick recovery.
For further queries on gallstones, turn to the experts at Narayana Health, today!