Gallstones are crystalline formations that develop within the gallbladder. The formation mainly involves bile that is available within the bladder. Although formation of the stones occurs in the bladder, they do pass into other parts of the body including into bile duct and pancreatic duct. The development of gallstones within the bladder causes inflammation, which in turn leads to retention of bile in the gallbladder. This is in addition to other infections that may develop, caused by intestinal microorganisms.
Gallstones can cause life-threatening conditions once they move from the gallbladder into other parts. Such include obstruction of bile duct, which leads to pancreatitis amongst other serious conditions. The sizes of gallstones vary a great deal. While some are as tiny as grain of sand, others can be large. In this case, a bladder may contain a single large stone or several small stones. In some cases, only sludge can be formed. This is a thick secretion whose presence may also be along with a stone or stones.
Types of Gallstones
Gallstones are medically classified into three, depending on their composition. While cholesterol stones are mainly composed of cholesterol (over 70%), pigment stones mainly contain salts (calcium) with about 20% cholesterol. On the other hand, mixed stones are composed of calcium, bile pigments and bilirubin amongst other components. It is very important to point out that gallstones composition is largely based on one’s age, diet and ethnicity.
Symptoms of Gallstones
Gallstones may not present any symptoms for years. They only start to present symptoms once they grow and reach a certain size. In what is medically referred to as a gallstone attack, one experiences an acute pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. This is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting that may last for up to half an hour. Other symptoms you may experience include pain between shoulder blades, abdominal bloating belching and indigestion. Most gallstone symptoms do occur mostly at night and especially after eating a fatty meal.
Causes of Gallstones
Although there are no specific causes of gallstones, various factors are associated with their development. Being overweight, being female approaching menopause and being Caucasian are risk factors associated with the condition. Lack of melatonin is also thought to contribute towards the development of the condition as t is responsible for converting cholesterol into bile. Although no clear relationship has been established between diet and gallstones formation, low-fat, high cholesterol and starchy foods are believed to contribute towards the development of gallstones.
Apart from the mentioned factors and diet, there are other possible causes of gallstones. These are mostly health conditions that possibly interfere with smooth functions of the bladder. Hemolytic heath conditions such as sickle-cell anemia and biliary tract infections encourage the development of gallstones. Heredity is also thought to contribute to the development of gallstones in individuals whose parents or siblings have been diagnosed with the condition. Certain medications have also been established to lead to the formation of gallstones. It has been established that prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors alters gallbladder function, leading to the formation of gallstones.
Treatment of Gallstones
The different classes of gallstones can be treated in different ways. Cholesterol gallstones are easily treated using ursodeoxycholic acid, which dissolves the stones. However one has to use the medication for a long time. In extreme cases, one’s gallbladder can b removed in a surgical operation medically known as Cholecystectomy. Cholecystectomy can either be open or Laparoscopic. Open Cholecystectomy is performed by making an incision into the abdomen just below the right lower ribs. In Laparoscopic surgery, several holes are made on the abdomen. It is through these holes that a camera and other instruments are inserted for locating the stones and dissolving the same.