Gallstones are a common health condition which develop within the gallbladder. It is thought that 1 out of 10 people in the UK has them. However, not everyone experiences the symptoms associated with the condition.
Here, you will discover everything you wanted to know about gallstones from what they are to the treatment options available.
What are gallstones and what causes them?
Gallstones are lumps or stones which form within the gallbladder or within the bile duct. Situated on the right side of the body, the gallbladder is a small sac just underneath the liver. It contains a number of chemicals and gallstones occur when they start to harden and gel together.
There are different types of gallstone you can develop. These include cholesterol gallstones and pigment gallstones. The former tend to be the most common, and they are yellow in colour. They are mostly made up of hardened cholesterol. Pigment gallstones on the other hand, develop when the bile contains too much bilirubin. They tend to be black or brown in colour.
There are a number of things that increase your likelihood of developing the condition. They include being overweight, aged over 40, being female and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Potential complications to be aware of
If left untreated, gallstones can cause a number of potential complications. Some are more serious than others, so it is important to have treatment as soon as possible. The most common potential complications to be aware of include:
- Inflammation of the gallbladder
- Blockage of the bile or pancreatic duct
- Gallbladder cancer
If the stone becomes lodged into the neck of your gallbladder, inflammation can occur. This can cause symptoms such as fever and severe pain.
A blockage of the bile or pancreatic duct can lead to especially serious complications. Symptoms you have a blockage include intense pain, jaundice, and an infection. If you have a blockage of the pancreatic duct, you will usually require hospitalisation.
Finally, gallbladder cancer is a potential complication, but it is very rare. Your doctor will be able to assess your symptoms to determine whether gallbladder cancer could be the cause.
Treatment options available
If you are diagnosed with gallstones, there are effective treatment options available. A first step and for those with mild gallstones is to consider lifestyle changes. Switching to a diet that is high in fruit and low on fat for example, can aid in the prevention of gallstones.
The two main treatment options include medications and surgery. Medications can be given to dissolve gallstones. However, these are rarely the preferred choice of treatment as they are not always effective. Instead, laparoscopic surgery to remove the gallbladder tends to be the most common and effective treatment choice.
To determine which treatment option is right for you, book a consultation with Mr Alan Woodward today.