What is gallbladder disease?
A gallbladder is a small organ in the digestive system. Gallstones, cholecystitis, cancer and other conditions that impair gallbladder function can all be classified as gallbladder disease. Sometimes, bile buildup can inhibit emptying of gallbladder emptying and lead to gallbladder inflammation.
The gallbladder, which looks like a pear-shaped sac, is located under the liver. The significant role of the gallbladder is to store the bile that your liver produces and then send it through a duct into the small intestine. Small intestine uses bile to aid in the digestion of lipids.
Irritation or inflammation in the gallbladder walls, also known as cholecystitis, is the primary cause of most gallbladder diseases.
Types of gallstones
Following are some of the types of gallstones.
Cholesterol gallstones typically look yellow-green in colour with 80% of gallstones.
Pigment gallstones consist of bilirubin and may appear darker and smaller.
Causes of gallstones
Gallstones may develop in the following circumstances; however, doctors are unsure of their specific cause.
Bile contains too much cholesterol
Normally, the molecules in the bile are sufficient to break down the cholesterol the liver excretes. However, if the liver excretes more cholesterol than your bile, it may crystallise and eventually become stones.
Bile contains too much bilirubin
A substance called bilirubin is produced as part of the regular breakdown of red blood cells. Following that, it moves through the liver before being subsequently eliminated from the body.
The liver may overproduce bilirubin under certain circumstances, which results in liver disease and some blood diseases. When your gallbladder is unable to break down the extra bilirubin, pigment gallstones may develop.
Concentrated bile due to gallbladder
For your gallbladder to work effectively, it must be able to release its bile. Insufficient bile excretion can result in too concentrated bile, which can also lead to the formation of stones.
Symptoms of gallstones
The upper right abdomen or the middle of the stomach may hurt as a result of gallstones. Occasionally, eating fried or high-fat foods may cause you to have gallbladder pain. Gallstone-related pain often only lasts a few hours, but it can be very painful.
Cholesterol in bile
Cholesterol, bilirubin, bile salts and lecithin are all components of bile fluid. The typical components of gallstones are cholesterol or bilirubin, which accumulate at the base of your gallbladder and harden into “stones” over time. Gallstones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball.
Although additional components are present, the major component of cholesterol gallstones is hardened cholesterol. Gallstones that exceed 50% cholesterol are referred to as cholesterol gallstones. Cholesterol stones make up for 75 per cent of gallstones.
Pain in right shoulder
The phrenic nerve becomes irritated and swollen when your gallbladder is affected. A phrenic nerve is connected from the abdomen, through the chest and into the neck.
Risk factors of gallstones
The risk factors of gallstones can be influenced mainly by food. Age, sexual orientation and family history are also some of the reasons for the cause of gallstones.
Risk factors for lifestyle
Eating a diet high in fat or cholesterol and low in fibre are one of the main reasons for the cause of gallstones. Aside from that, the following conditions may also cause gallstones.
- Having type 2 diabetes
- Being 60 years of age
- Having a family history of gallstones
Medical risk factors
- Having cirrhosis
- Usage of drugs to decrease cholesterol during pregnancy
- Taking drugs high in oestrogen
Complications of gallstones
Gallstones can result in significant issues, such as
Inflammation of the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis)
This occurs when a stone prevents your gallbladder from emptying. It results in fever and ongoing pain. The gallbladder could rupture or burst if you don’t seek treatment immediately.
Biliary duct obstructions
This may result in fever, chills and jaundice. Your pancreas may become inflamed if a stone obstructs the duct leading to pancreatitis.
A bile duct infection
An infection is more prone to develop in a clogged duct. Sepsis is a severe illness that can develop if the bacteria get into circulation. Bile duct stone and inflammation increases the risk of developing malignancy in the bile duct.
Diagnosis of gallstones
A doctor will conduct a physical examination and may recommend the following tests.
A blood test that examines the liver’s enzyme levels can reveal gallstone-induced gallbladder inflammation even though these tests are not performed, especially for gallstone disease.
Through a CT scan, a doctor can examine the interior details of the gallbladder. CT scans using Magnetic Resonance for the Pancreas (MRCP) are used in this test to create images of the internal organs, including your liver and gallbladder.
This test can determine if the gallbladder is adequately squeezed. Your doctor administers a radioactive substance that is safe for the organ.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
The doctor inserts an endoscope into your mouth and guides it down to the small intestine. They inject a dye to view bile ducts on a camera in the endoscope. They can frequently remove gallstones that have migrated into the ducts.
This examination combines endoscopy and ultrasonography to search for gallstones.
Treatments of gallstones
Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy)
The gallbladder is removed by a surgeon either through laparoscopy (a series of small incisions) or laparotomy (conventional “open” surgery with a larger incision).
Cholecystitis may be accompanied with infection. Antibiotics can stop an infection from spreading even if they seldom treat cholecystitis.
Radiation and chemotherapy may be performed following gallbladder surgery to help prevent cancer from coming back.
This oral medication is an alternative for persons with gallstone issues who are poor candidates for surgery. Small cholesterol gallstones may be easier to dissolve and less painful with the aid of ursodeoxycholic acid. Chenodiol is another oral solution.
Contact solvent dissolution
Chemicals that dissolve gallstones are injected into the gallbladder through a skin incision.
Prevention of gallstones
Gallstones are less likely to develop if you,
Avoid skipping meals
Try to eat at the same time every day. Fasting or skipping meals both raise the risk of gallstones.
Slowly lose weight
Go slowly if you need to lose weight. Gallstone risk can rise with rapid weight loss. Aim for weekly weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds.
Eat more foods high in fibre
Increase your intake of fibre-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Keep a healthy weight
Gallstones are more likely to form in people who are overweight and obese. You can work toward achieving a healthy weight by consuming fewer calories and engaging in more exercise.
When to see a doctor?
If you experience any of the following major gallstone complications, get immediate medical attention.
- Unable to find a comfortable position or sit motionless due to acute abdominal pain.
- Skin and the whites of your eyes are becoming yellow (jaundice), chills and a high temperature.
A little, pear-shaped organ named the gallbladder assists your digestive system in breaking down fats, stores and excretes bile. Gallstones are the most typical problem that can arise with the gallbladder.
Gallstones are pebble-like structures that most people do not even realise the presence. Consult your healthcare practitioner if you experience upper right abdominal pain after consuming fatty foods, as well as nausea, vomiting, jaundice and fever.
How serious is the gallbladder problem?
Gallbladder issues should still be handled even though they rarely can be fatal. If you act and consult a doctor, you can stop gallbladder issues from getting worse. Abdominal pain that lasts for at least 5 hours is one of the symptoms that should make you seek immediate medical attention.
What is the first sign of gallstones?
Gallstones may not show any symptoms at all. Upper right abdominal discomfort is the first sign and symptom of gallstones.
What is the best treatment for gallstones?
Medications and surgery are often used for the treatment of gallstone problems.
Can we live without a gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small organ located under the liver that stores and releases bile, which helps the body digest fats. Removal of gallbladder can cause some changes to the digestive process and may require dietary adjustments. Most people are able to adapt to these changes and continue to live healthy.
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