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Gallstones

What are Gallstones?

A gallstone is a hard, pebble like deposit that is made from digestive fluid that is formed in the gallbladder. This bile is what helps the body digest fats. Gallstones are as small as a grain of sand and can grow as large as a golf ball. One to multiple amounts of gallstones can develop in individuals. There are two types of gallstones; cholesterol stones, which are yellowish-greenish, made mostly from cholesterol. The pigment stones are dark and small.

Symptoms of Gallstones

It is possible for they’re to be no symptoms that an individual has gallstones. It is only when a gallstone causes a blockage that symptoms will show themselves in an individual. A Gallbladder attack can come suddenly. They typically occur at night and after fatty meals. The symptoms of gallstones are usually caused by biliary colic. Biliary colic is the distention of the bill ducts or gallbladder that occurs in eighty percent of those who have gallstones. The symptoms are:

  • Constant pain in the upper right abdomen the progressives and fast and last anywhere between the thirty minutes to several hours.
  • Sudden and rapid paint hat intensifies in the center of the abdomen below the breastbone.
  • Pain radiating from shoulders and back
  • Pain under the right shoulder.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Yellowish color of skin or whites of the eyes
  • Bowl movement that is clay colored.
  • High fever with chills

What Causes Gallstones?

The cause of gallstones is when the bile in the gallbladder has an overabundance of cholesterol. Too much bilirubin can also be a cause of gallstones. Bilirubin is a chemical that is made when the red blood cells are broken down. If the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough then gallstones could form.

Women are more likely than men to develop gallstones. This is due in part to pregnancy as an increased amount of estrogen from pregnancy can increase cholesterol levels in bile. Birth control pills as well as hormone replacement also causes higher levels of cholesterol and decreases gallbladder function ability.

Being overweight is another cause of gallstones, as bile salts in bile are reduced; causing more cholesterol. A high fat diet has potential problems as being overweight increases cholesterol and reduces the gallbladder’s emptying ability. While weight can be a contributory factor so to can losing weight, as rapid weight loss through fasting or liquid diets causes the body to secrete extra cholesterol into the bile and slows the emptying process. Age is no less a factor, as with age, the body secretes more cholesterol. Drugs that are designed to lower cholesterol increase the level of cholesterol secreted in bile.
Those of American Indian descent have been shown to genetically be predisposed to producing higher levels of cholesterol in bile.

Diagnosis of Gallstones

A doctor could perform a blood test that can reveal complications caused by an ultrasound to scan the gallbladder and used to look for signs of gallstones. The use a special dye that coats the bile ducts highlighting them, can be used to create an image that would allow the doctor to detect where a blockage is occurring. A blood test will be run to find any infections or other complications that are caused by gallstones.

These test include: Bilirubin, live function test, and pancreatic enzymes. In addition, there are three imaging tests that can be used.

Computerized tomography scans show gallstones or complications, such as infection or ruptures.
Gallbladder radionuclide scan—is a test that checks the function and looks for signs of infection and bile duct obstruction in the gallbladder.
Percutaneous transhepatic—X-rays the bile ducts to check for blockage.
Cholescintigraphy—is used to diagnose abnormal contraction of the gallbladder and obstruction of the bile ducts
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatograpy—used to locate and remove the stones once located.

Treatment of Gallstones

The treatment of gallstones is most often surgery referred to as cholecystectomy that removes the gallbladder. This causes the bile to go directly from the liver to the small intestine. Medication is an option, as oral dissolution therapy will dissolve gallstones. This method can take up to several months to fully dissolve gallstones; even years in some cases. An experimental treatment called contact dissolution therapy that is directly injected into the gallbladder to dissolve the cholesterol stones is another viable option for some suffering with this condition. This method can dissolve the stones from a day to three days.

How to prevent and manage Gallstones.

The best ways to reduce the chances of gallstones is to maintain a healthy weight by reducing calories and increasing physical activity. If overweight, losing weight at a measured pace is advised; as rapid weight loss can increase the chances of developing gallstones.

 

References:

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gallstones/#1
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gallstones/DS00165/DSECTION=symptoms
http://www.medicinenet.com/gallstones/article.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004277/