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Gallstones: symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The gallstones, commonly known as gallbladder stones, form hard deposits in the bladder due to a progressive accumulation of specific solid components such as cholesterol or proteins. When these deposits increase in size or block a bile duct, the patient may experience symptoms such as intense pain in the abdomen and nausea, vomiting, and fever, among others. It is a more frequent condition in women than in men. Still, both sexes can suffer from it, and an accurate medical diagnosis is necessary to determine the most appropriate form of treatment in each case. Continue reading this FastlyHealarticle if you want to know more about this condition, as we detail what they are, symptoms, treatment, and causes of gallstones.

Causes of gallstones

The gallstones occur due to an imbalance between those substances that form the bile, which is the liquid generated and secreted by the liver stored in the gallbladder. Depending on the inequality in question, two different types of gallstones can be distinguished :

  • Cholesterol gallstones: this is the most common type and is closely related to poor nutritional habits, specifically those diets that are very rich in fatty foods that promote their formation.
  • Gallstones are composed of bilirubin: these are less common. They result from an increase in bilirubin in it, generally due to suffering from some disease or disorder such as cirrhosis, hemolytic anemia, or liver failure.

It has been proven that gallstones are more common among women, people over 40 years of age, overweight patients, and those with a family history of this condition. Besides these, other risk factors can make a patient more prone to gallstone formation, and these are as follows:

  • Having diabetes
  • Having had a bone marrow or organ transplant.
  • When the gallbladder has difficulty emptying the bile properly. This condition is more common in pregnant women.
  • Having liver cirrhosis or bile duct infections.
  • Suffering from situations that involve the destruction of a large number of red blood cells.
  • Take birth control pills.
  • Lose weight very quickly by following a low-calorie diet.
  • Having received intravenous feeding for an extended period.
  • Eat a high cholesterol diet.

Symptoms of gallstones

The gallstones, in most cases, can be completely asymptomatic, in this case, called silent stones, and is very likely to be diagnosed during a routine performing medical tests such as X – rays or ultrasounds.

However, when these hard deposits begin to move and, consequently, inflammation or obstruction of the bile ducts occurs, they manifest themselves through biliary colic, which is characterized by pain that affects the right side—from the abdomen, often radiating to the right scapula or shoulder. These pains usually appear intermittently, with alternating, excruciating periods and periods of mild discomfort, and can last from 30 minutes to hours.

In addition to this picture, other symptoms of biliary colic that the patient may present are the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Belching
  • Fever.
  • Skin and conjunctiva (whitish part of the eyes) acquire a yellowish color. This condition is called jaundice.
  • Clay-colored stools.

When to go to the doctor

Once gallstones have manifested through symptoms such as the above, there is a greater risk of complications. The pain becomes very recurrent, so it will be essential to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Although not all the symptoms mentioned are present, it is advisable to contact a specialist if the pain is experienced in the upper abdomen or it is observed that the skin or the whites of the eyes turns yellow or darker.

An early medical diagnosis is essential to avoid complications of this condition because when stones obstruct the duct of the gallbladder, in addition to causing inflammation in the latter, they can cause pancreatitis or cholangitis, which is the infection of the duct through which bile is transported from the liver to the gallbladder and intestines.

Treatment of gallstones

The treatment of stones in the gallbladder will depend in each case on the size of the rocks, the symptoms that are present, and the patient’s health status. Next, we detail the different possible forms of treatment that the doctor may consider in the case of gallstones:

Medicines for biliary colic

The doctor may prescribe the taking of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain and symptoms that cause biliary colic and improve the physical well-being of the patient. If vomiting also occurs, antiemetic medications may be prescribed. It is essential to fully respect the doctor’s instructions regarding the dose and duration of treatment.

Treatments to dissolve gallstones

Suppose the doctor contemplates the possibility of trying to dissolve the hard deposits accumulated in the gallbladder. In that case, he may recommend one of the three procedures detailed below, although he can also combine them:

  1. Bile salts: the administration of oral bile salts is usually prescribed to patients who have stones that do not exceed 1 cm and are composed of cholesterol and to those who have moderate symptoms.
  2. Contact dissolution: certain substances dissolve the rocks inside the gallbladder through a puncture. It is also a treatment performed in patients with less than 1 cm formations and with a gallbladder that usually functions.
  3. Lithotripsy: shock waves are applied to destroy larger gallstones in size. These are fragmented and are eliminated through the urine. This type of treatment is not very common today because the stones often reappear later.

Gallbladder stone operation

It is likely that many of the patients who present symptoms, suffer from biliary colic, or have complications, will have to undergo surgery. The technique used for this is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy and consists of removing the gallbladder through small surgical incisions. It is an operation from which the patient can recover relatively quickly, and if everything goes well, he may be able to go home one day after the procedure.

This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Gallstones: symptoms and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Digestive System category.

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