Gallstones are small rocks that build up in your gallbladder. The gallbladder rests underneath the liver and is a smaller organ that resembles a pouch or a pocket. The responsibility of the gallbladder is to collect bile produced by the liver, where it becomes more concentrated over time. Bile breaks down fat during digestion in the human body. The bile then travels between the gallbladder and the liver through bile ducts. Bile turns to gallstones when calcium salts, bile pigments, and cholesterol become out of balance. Many people who have gallstones don’t develop symptoms. However, if the gallstones do block an opening in the gallbladder, the obstruction can cause significant pain for one to five hours. Doctors call this condition biliary colic.
The human body is an intricate system of balances. Experts theorize that gallstones are due to an imbalance of bile components. Only one in ten people develop gallstones that interfere with a person’s wellness, and those individuals may not experience any symptoms. The chemical malfunctions cause slight crystals to grow inside the bile pathways and the gallbladder over a period of many years. Gallstones can be as small as a speck of dirt, or as large as a marble. Occasionally, a stone will develop alone, but more frequently gallstones develop in clusters.
Cholesterol and Bilirubin
Many people who get gallstones are never bothered by any painful symptoms. In fact, the longer an individual goes without pain or discomfort, the less likely they are to encounter any issues with the stones. Four out of five people with gallstones feature uniquely high levels of cholesterol in the gallbladder. Also, a surge in bilirubin causes one in five people to develop gallstones.
The medical name for an inflamed gallbladder is cholecystitis. Symptoms often include a high fever, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), and severe, chronic pain. Individuals with an inflamed liver may encounter episodes of biliary colic. A general practitioner will manage pain with medication and offer guidance concerning a diet which can reduce symptoms. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend any number of surgical procedures to alleviate the discomfort. The gallbladder isn’t essential, and many people live their lives happily without the organ.
Cholelithiasis is a medical term to encompass the entirety of gallstone disease. Contracting gallstone disease means that the stones are present in your body. If you’re not experiencing symptoms, your physician may monitor its progression over a period. Complications and symptoms of gallstone disease include stones being inside your body, biliary colic, and blockages in the bile duct or gallbladder.
Risks Leading to Gallstones
Specific populations of people are more likely to develop gallstones. If you’re overweight or obese, female whose had children, over the age of 40, or are taking oral birth control medications then you may be more susceptible to this condition. People with cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), primary sclerosing, Crohn’s disease, and cholangitis are at a higher risk of contracting gallstones. If you’ve got a close family member who’s had gallstones, you’re more likely to have them too. Significant or rapid weight loss due to bariatric surgery or natural methods may leave a person to develop gallstone disease. There are even a few different types of prescribed antibiotics which may result in the presence of gallstones in the body.
Murphy’s Sign Test
A doctor will perform a series of tests to examine you for gallbladder disease. A standard method called Murphy’s Sign test. Your physician will place their hand on your stomach in the upper right side. You’ll be asked to inhale deeply. If the test results in discomfort it could indicate that you’ve got an inflamed gallbladder.
An inflamed gallbladder requires immediate treatment. Your physician will order a series of scans and tests to deduce the most suitable treatment for your specific circumstances. You may be subject to blood tests, an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a CT scan, or cholangiography which requires the insertion of dye inside your body. The dye can be seen in X-rays and is frequently used by surgeons to view the internal organs.
If you do experience painful symptoms related to gallbladder disease, your doctor may suggest removing the organ through a variety of surgical methods. Keyhole surgery or the medical term laparoscopic cholecystectomy is commonly practiced to treat gallbladder disease. A surgeon uses a long, narrow telescope with a light and camera on the end to view your internal body. The abdomen is inflated using carbon dioxide, which is harmless to the individual and helps the surgeon view the procedure. Most people recover completely within ten days.
When to See a Doctor
Most people have silent stones which don’t interfere with the work of the liver, pancreas, or gallbladder. However, if you experience chronic pain for more than five hours, or if you have a fever, even a low one, it’s time to consult your doctor. Nausea, vomiting and the yellowing of the skin, or eyes all demand medical attention immediately. If a gallstone continues blocking essential functions inside your body, it can cause the gallbladder to rupture and tear which can lead to infection and a medical emergency.