In order to understand what gallstones (Gallbladder Stones) are, one must first learn about the gallbladder and its functions. The gallbladder is a small organ located in the upper right abdomen and has one function, to store a digestive fluid known as bile. The liver produces bile and gallbladder stores and secretes bile juice. This digestive juice aids in breaking down fat molecules (lipids) which mainly contains cholesterol.
The issue of gallstone occurs when the bile cannot digest the fat effectively thereby leading them to clump together and form stones.
What causes gallstones?
Bile is a digestive juice which focuses on breaking down the fat molecules into simpler compounds so that they can be absorbed by the body easily.
- Fat compounds mainly contain cholesterol. When there is an excess of cholesterol molecules present in the bile juice, it cannot effectively breakdown the cholesterol. These undigested cholesterol molecules clump together and harden to form the gallbladder stones. In 80% of the cases, the gallstones form due to this reason.
- Excess of bilirubin is another main reason for gallstones. When RBCs break down, they form a pigment known as bilirubin. The liver excretes bilirubin along with the bile juice which is then transferred to the gall bladder. The bilirubin breaks down in gallbladder. However, when there is too much bilirubin (blood disorders form excess bilirubin) in the bile juice, it cannot destroy the pigment. Therefore this pigment hardens and forms gallstones. The stones are either black or brown in colour.
Most of the time, gallbladder stones do not harm the body or cause any reactions to the body. In many cases, the patient will not realize that they have gallstones. The symptoms, such as pain in the abdomen, only rise when the stones block the bile duct. In addition to these symptoms, there is:
- Clay-coloured stools and dark urine.
- The patient may feel constantly nauseous which is usually followed by vomiting.
- Diarrhea and indigestion is also a major symptom of gallstones.
Gallbladder stones treatment
The condition of gallbladder stones does not pose any serious or life-threatening risks to an individual. Sometimes, the gallbladder stones are automatically excreted from the body and the patient will may not even realize it.
- If the gallbladder becomes infected and inflamed because of the gallstones, the doctor recommends a laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery (Cholecystectomy). In this surgery, the surgeon will remove the gallbladder. The liver will then secrete the bile juice directly into the small intestine.
- The doctor may prescribe medications, but they are not as effective as surgery. Medicines such as “Ursodiol” or “Actigall” dissolve the gallstones and cures the condition. However, this is a very slow process taking several years to dissolve the stone. In addition to that, there is always a chance of the gallstones returning.
It is advisable to consult a doctor.
Gallstones can be effectively prevented by following a few basic simple measures. These are:
- Since 80% of all gallstones formed are due to cholesterol buildup, low-fat food is recommended. In addition to this, following a healthy and balanced diet helps the body to prevent gallstones from forming.
- Regular exercise helps keep the body fit and function properly.
- Intake of fiber and fluids aids in digestion and helps to pass stools easily.