Gallstones or Gallbladder Stones
Gallstones are a result of a malfunction of the gallbladder.
They appear when the liquid inside the gallbladder hardens and
creates small hard pieces that resemble to stone.
The bile is the liquid inside the gallbladder. It is produced
by the liver and then kept inside the gallbladder until fat
digestion is needed. It will then be pushed by the gallbladder
into the common bile duct and then it will get inside the small
intestine where it will perform its digestive function.
The bile is made out of water, bile salts, cholesterol, fats,
proteins, and bilirubin. All these components give bile its
yellowish color and break up the fats. The reason why gallstones
form out of bile is because sometimes this bile composition
can change containing a lot of cholesterol or a lot of bile
salts and bilirubin.
Cholesterol stones have a yellow-greenish color and are made
of cholesterol most of all. 80% of the gallstones are represented
by cholesterol stones.
Another type of gallstones is that made out of pigment (bilirubin)
and is small and dark.
The size of the gallstones is varied. Some stones are tiny
but others can occupy the whole place in the gallbladder. Sometimes
inside the gallbladder doctors find one stone and in other patients
they might find 2 to 10 stones of different sizes and shapes.
The biliary system is made out of the gallbladder and the
ducts. This system is carrying the bile from the liver towards
the small intestine to help in the digestion process.
Gallstones can interfere with the bileâ€™s normal flow and
can block it if they get stuck in any of the small ducts: the
hepatic ducts, the cystic duct and the common bile duct. If
the bile gets locked inside one of these ducts complications
like pancreatitis or gallbladder inflammation can occur. Signs
of such a problem are: jaundice, fever and intense pain that
lasts a long time.
Gallstones form due to an increased quantity of cholesterol
inside the bile, due to biliary tract infections and other assumptions
like: hereditary blood disorders and cirrhosis.
Other factors that lead to gallstones formation are: obesity,
ethnicity, age, gender, diabetes and rapid weight loss.
Obesity is considered a factor of risk because it reduces
the amount of bile salts in bile and so cholesterol will be
in an increased amount inside that bile.
Native Americans have a genetic predisposition for developing
gallstones. They seem to secrete more cholesterol inside the
bile than needed. Most of all those aged over 60 are suspected
to be at risk of developing gallstones more frequent than others
aged less then 60.
Women are exposed to this disease more than men. They might
develop gallstones between 20 and 60 years of age. It seems
that among the Pima Indians of Arizona 70% of the women aged
under 30 have gallstones already. Mexican American men and women
have a high risk of developing this affection too.
Those who have diabetes are considered to be exposed to gallstones
because they have high levels of triglycerides which increase
the risk of gallstones.
Is someone looses weight in a short while the fat will be
metabolized by the body during this loss of weight and will
determine the liver to secrete more cholesterol in the bile,
resulting the gallstoneâ€™s formation.
Also, pregnant women and those who follow hormone therapy
based on estrogens can develop gallstones. Estrogen has been
proven to increase the level of cholesterol inside the bile
and decrease the gallbladderâ€™s movements.
Gallstones can give symptoms that look like attacks because
they install suddenly. Some of the classic symptoms are: nausea
and vomiting, pain in the right upper abdomen that gets worse
as time passes and pain in the right shoulder and the area between
the shoulder blades. Bloating, belching, gas, jaundice, fever
and indigestion are also present in such an attack.
Sometimes the gallstones give no symptoms and are considered
to be silent stones. They generally do not interfere with the
pancreas or gallbladder and to not require treatment.
Diagnosing gallstones is usually made by accident, especially
the silent ones while performing some tests for other problems.
If the doctor suspects that you feel sick because of gallstones
he will ran an ultrasound test to see if gallstones are present.
These ultrasounds are not harmful and are used even when showing
the baby to the pregnant mother.
Other tests can also be performed like the CT which will
show the complications too. A magnetic resonance cholangiogram
can be used when suspecting that the bile ducts have been blocked
by the gallstone. For showing a malfunction in the contraction
of the gallbladder the cholescintigraphy will be used. This
means that a radioactive material will be injected in the body
and it will stimulate the gallbladder to contract showing any
abnormalities in this process. Sometimes even blood tests will
be requested to see signs of possible infection, obstruction
Doctors know that the symptoms of gallstones are similar
to those of appendicitis, pancreatitis, hepatitis, heart attack
and ulcers and will perform tests to eliminate these diseases
before diagnosing gallstones.
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