Gallstones (Cholelithiasis) Causes, Risk & Diagnosis - Dr. Ronak Malani

GALLSTONES: ARE THEY THE PAIN STONES?

Gallstones aren't something most people give some thought to and are worried about. But, these pebble-like pieces of cholesterol, or bilirubin, can gather in your gallbladder and just stay there, sometimes causing pain, infections & complications.

Gallstones are one of the foremost common conditions which can, later on, cause digestive health issues.

Gall bladder stones are quite prevalent in adults, with a prevalence of 3-5% in India. While gallstones most ordinarily occur in people above 40 years of age; children are increasingly being affected.

WHAT ARE GALLSTONES?

Gallstones (Cholelithiasis) are the hardened deposits of juice that exist in varying sizes and get stuck within the gallbladder which is essentially a little organ under the liver.

The gallbladder may be a small, pear-shaped organ positioned below the liver on the right side of your abdomen. The gallbladder holds a digestive juice called bile which gets released into the small intestine.

Gallstones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. For few people, there can be just one gallstone in their gallbladder, while others may have numerous.

TYPES OF GALLSTONES

There are 3 sorts of GALLSTONES

1) Cholesterol Stones

It is the foremost common type of stone which is sometimes yellow or green in colour. It's mostly fabricated from hardened cholesterol.

2) Pigment Stones

These stones are less common, black in colour, and formed of bilirubin, a yellowish pigment.

3) Mixed Stones

These gallstones have a sticky mud-like appearance and are a combination of cholesterol and pigment gallstones.

CAUSES OF GALLSTONES

There are several reasons why gallstones are formed:

  • There’s an excessive amount of cholesterol in your bile
  • There’s an excessive amount of bilirubin in your bile
  • Your gallbladder doesn’t empty all the way

WHO ALL ARE AT RISK?

Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • High-fat diet or cholesterol and low in fiber
  • Living with obesity
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Living with type 2 diabetes

Genetic Risk Factors

  • Being born female
  • Having a case history
  • Being 60 years or older

Medical Risk Factors

  • Living with cirrhosis
  • Being Pregnant
  • Taking certain medications to lower cholesterol
  • Taking medications with a high estrogen content (like certain birth controls)

WHAT DO GALLSTONE SYMPTOMS FEEL LIKE?

Gallstones can appear without causing any symptoms

  • Jaundice, dark urine or pale stool
  • Sudden, severe discomfort within the upper right abdomen
  • Back pain between your shoulder blades
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • High fever and chills
  • Bloating or having chronic digestive problems

WHY ARE WOMEN MORE AT RISK OF GALLSTONES?

It's the effect of female hormones. Gallstones are 2 to 3 times as common in women than in men.

Estrogen raises cholesterol within the bile, and progesterone slows the emptying of the gallbladder. That would explain why, as compared to men, women's risk lowers as they become old.

Women are diagnosed with gallstones nearly thrice more frequently than men before the age of 40, and their risk is barely marginally higher by the age of 60.

HOW CAN GALLSTONES BE PREVENTED?

Many risk factors of gallstone disease like age, gender, ethnic background, and genetics cannot be modified to forestall the formation of gallstones.

1. Maintain a healthy weight

2. Eat Healthfully

3. Get Active

4. Take Preventative Medication

HOW CAN GALLSTONES BE DIAGNOSED?

Many people have gallstones and are unaware of them because there are not any symptoms. If your discomfort persists, your healthcare provider will take a look at your past health history and will undertake a physical examination and a few tests to determine your medical condition, such as:

  • Ultrasound
  • HIDA or PIPIDA scan (Hepatobiliary Scintigraphy or Cholescintigraphy)
  • Blood tests
  • CT Scan
  • High fever and chills
  • MRCP (Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography)
  • EUS (Endoscopic Ultrasound)
  • ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography)

WHAT HAPPENS IF GALLSTONES ARE LEFT TREATED?

If gallstones are not treated promptly, they can lead to serious complications such as:

  • Gallbladder inflammation (acute cholecystitis)
  • Blocked bile ducts
  • Infected bile ducts (acute cholangitis)
  • Gallbladder cancer

TREATMENT OF GALLSTONES

You may not need treatment if your gallstones do not cause any symptoms.

Gallstones that are causing symptoms should be treated as soon as possible. If your bile ducts are clogged for an extended period of time, they may cause injury or infection.

1) Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy)

2) Medications to dissolve gallstones

Gallstones might be more difficult to deal with than many people realize. If you have acute cholecystitis or symptoms like fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical help right away.

At INFINITY GASTRO PLUS, you can make an appointment with a gastroenterologist or surgeon who are specialised in the treatment of Gallbladder conditions. For further information CONTACT US ON +91 9978836642.

  • Dr. Ronak Malani

    Gastroenterologist & Colorectal Cancer Specialist