At about 3 inches long and 1.6 inches in diameter and with its main purpose to pump enough bile from the liver to the intestines for proper digestion, the gallbladder doesn’t seem to be a central organ one can live without. True enough hundreds of thousands of Americans have had their gallbladders removed each year.
But the event isn’t without hard consequences as patients become prone to further disorders, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and liver malfunction. This string of events is often rooted in negligible stones that form in the gallbladder, called gallstones.
How gallstones form is mostly associated with large amounts of cholesterol in your bile – these are often known as cholesterol gallstones. The second most common cause of gallstones is the formation of particles from bilirubin, which originates from hemoglobin that is supposed to be replenished by the liver through the bile. Excessive bilirubin in the bile or altered bilirubin caused by decreased contraction of the gallbladder or impeded flow of bile through the bladder’s ducts leads to gallstones.
Often, gallstones symptoms don’t surface until several years. The most frequent among gallstone symptoms is biliary colic, which occurs as fluids accumulate behind a gallbladder duct obstruction, thereby causing the bladder to swell. The pain that follows is felt at the upper abdomen and is usually accompanied by nausea. The pain may also transfer to the upper back and the shoulders and last anywhere from several minutes to several hours.
There are many complications that could arise from gallstones. You could get cholecystitis, which is the inflammation of the gallbladder. Pancreatitis happens when the gallstones block the pancreatic duct and obstruct the pancreatic liquid from flowing through. Gallstones can also cause bilirubin to accumulate in the bile duct and lead to jaundice, where your skin and the whites of your eyes get a yellowish color.
Other symptoms of gallstones include:
- belching or loudly releasing air through your mouth;
- flatulence or the presence of excessive gas in your intestines or stomach; and
- indigestion or a burning feeling in your abdominal or chest area due to problems in digesting food.
Aversion to fatty foods is one of several signs of gallstones. Patients are recommended to maintain a diet low in fat and carbohydrates and high in fiber. In some instances, the pain associated with gallbladder stones symptoms start around 30 minutes after a greasy meal so it is worthwhile to avoid overeating and to lean towards fresher and less oily food.
To diagnose a patient, an ultrasound or an x-ray is usually prescribed and in severe cases, an operation becomes an option. However, studies show that gallstones recur in 50% of surgery cases and despite the benefits of liver and gallbladder cleansing, which are usual follow-up treatments, the condition cannot be significantly altered without healthier lifestyle changes.
Prevention is indeed better. Following tried and tested remedies like regular exercise, shunning processed food that requires your liver to work hard, drinking lots of water, and eating a low-fat diet will help prevent gallstones from developing.