Gallstones - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Gall Stone Treatment

Gallbladder, the pear-shaped pouch that firmly sits below the liver, collects and stores bile. Bile is an essential fluid that helps in digesting fats. This fluid, for various reasons, gets hardened like stones and remains in the pouch. This is what leads to the medical condition known as gallstones.

How gallstones are formed?

Bile is a complex fluid that contains many components, including bilirubin and cholesterol. Gallstones are formed as a result of clustered bilirubin or cholesterol particles.

The formation of gallstones can be compared to the formation of pearls inside an oyster. The clustered particles grow each day and form a lump. These lumps turn into gallstones that grow from the size of a grain to the size that is as big as a golf ball.

How to find gallstones?

The presence of gallstones could not be found until they caused a block in the gall duct by lodging in it. If they are smaller in size and could make a way through the gall duct they cause zero harm. The issue arises when they block the drainage-duct system, instead of passing through it.

Are gallstones common?

Yes, they are! In fact they are more common in women as at least 1 in every 5 women will have gallstones that cause minor to major blocks. And, 1 in every 10 men will have them.

Gallstones are common in women as they are triggered by multiple pregnancies and by estrogen that is taken after menopause. Apart from that they are common in women who take contraceptive pills regularly.

In men and women, they are common in people who have followed vigorous and fast-paced weight loss methods. Also people who are above 60 got many chances of developing gallstones.

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

The presence of gallstones do not show any direct symptoms. They cause abdominal pain due to the gall duct blocks. Based on the size of the block, the pain could be severe at the right of the abdomen and often spread to the back of the body.

The person will also indicate belchings, nausea and decreased appetite as a result of sensitivity to high fats.

How gallstones are diagnosed?

The diagnostic procedures for gallstones include ultrasound and blood tests. Few doctors prescribe x-ray but in most cases gallstones are not visible unless they are really big in size.

  • Abdominal ultrasound - This test is the most commonly used diagnostic process to spot the signs of gallstones.
  • Blood tests - Blood samples are tested to find any infections, and conditions such as jaundice, pancreatitis or other complications triggered by gallstone blocks.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound - This is an advanced procedure that is employed to find the smaller stones that are missed in the ultrasound test. As the name implies, an endoscope is inserted all the way till the intestines to view the stone with the help of soundwaves that create precise imaging of the tissue.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) - ERCP, medically known as Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), is conducted to find the gallstones and even used to remove them during the diagnosis itself. Many advanced gallstone clinics or gastro clinics conduct this test. Search for your nearest facility to book the appointment now.
  • Additional tests such as oral cholecystography, computerized tomography and the hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scan are conducted based on the condition of the gallstones and their impact on the person.

What is the treatment for gallstones?

Treatment for gallstones is not needed unless the person starts experiencing symptoms of it - pain, discomfort and loss of appetite.

After conducting the required diagnostic procedures and based on the findings, the gastro doctor may recommend cholecystectomy to remove the gallbladder. This is to prevent the formation of gallstones.

Once the gallbladder is removed, the bile will flow directly to the intestines and there is no need for it to be stored.

The other treatment option for gallstones is oral medication that dissolves the stones. But it is a long process and may take weeks, months and even years. The complete cure entirely depends on the size, placement and the frequency of the formation of the stones.  Once the medication is stopped, there are chances of recurrence of the stones.

Look out for the best gastro clinic in your locality and book an appointment if you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms or even for a general checkup. The sooner you could find the stone and the smaller they are, the higher the chances you have to get rid of the gallstones.

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