What are Gallstones? What Causes Gallstones?


What are gallstones?

Gallstones are tiny stones that form in the gall bladder, and are made of bile salts, cholesterol and calcium salts. These gallstones can then block the normal flow of bile from the gallbladder, which can lead to pain. Gallstones are surprisingly quite common and occur in up to 20% of people in the United States, predominately impacting the female population. Rarely, in cases of severe inflammation, gallstones may erode through the gallbladder into adherent bowel potentially causing an obstruction termed gallstone ileus. Presence of gallstones in other parts of the biliary tract can cause obstruction of the bile ducts, which can lead to serious conditions such as ascending cholangitis or pancreatitis. Either of these two conditions can be life-threatening and are therefore considered to be medical emergencies.

What causes gallstones?

Researchers believe that gallstones may be caused by a combination of factors, including:

1) Diet

Most symptoms of gallstones develop after eating fatty foods, making diet one of the most important ways to control them. The more fat there is in any single meal, the greater the likelihood of an attack, and the worse the effects are likely to be. Adopting a reduced-fat diet won’t eliminate the disease altogether, but it will usually reduce the frequency and severity of painful episodes.

2) Diabetes

People with diabetes generally have high levels of fatty acids called triglycerides. These fatty acids increase the risk of gallstones.

3) Being overweight or obese

A large clinical study showed that being even moderately overweight increases one’s risk for developing gallstones. The most likely reason is that obesity tends to reduce the amount of bile salts in bile, resulting in more cholesterol. Obesity also decreases gallbladder emptying. However, crash dieting and rapid weight loss are risk factors in the development of gallstones. As the body metabolizes fat during rapid weight loss, it causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into bile, which can cause gallstones.

4) Age

People over age 60 are more likely to develop gallstones than younger people.

5) Gender

Women between 20 and 60 years of age are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men.

6) Ethnicity

Native Americans have a genetic predisposition to secrete high levels of cholesterol in bile. In fact, they have the highest rates of gallstones in the United States.

Such as age, gender and ethnicity cannot be altered. However, it is possible that having a vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of developing gallstones. Vegetarians have a significantly lower risk of developing gallstones, compared to people who eat meat. Paying attention to your diet and eating healthy as well as making an effort to get regular exercise are some of the best ways to combat this problem and make sure you don’t have to suffer from this painful situation.

Symptoms of gallstones:

* Minor Symptoms: Gallstones may be asymptomatic, even for years. These gallstones are called “silent stones” and do not require treatment. When the signs of gallstones first appear, they may include indigestion, bloating, nausea, gas, and abdominal pain, which is known as biliary colic. Collectively, these are referred to as a gallbladder attack.

* Major Symptoms: A characteristic symptom of gallstones is a “gallstone attack”, in which a person may experience intense pain in the upper-right side of the abdomen, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, that steadily increases for approximately 30 minutes to several hours. In an acute attack, the pain is more severe, and might extend to cover the mid-abdominal area, the right shoulder, and the upper back.

* Symptoms Indicate an Emergency: In extreme cases, nausea, sharp upper abdominal pain, and vomiting might occur in conjunction with a high fever, violent chills, or excessive perspiration. These symptoms indicate an emergency situation where immediate medical attention is required. This is especially true when symptoms are accompanied by jaundice, a condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes appear yellowish in color. These very severe symptoms develop when the gallbladder has stopped working correctly, leading to the build-up of high toxin levels in the body and bloodstream.

Gallstones treatment:

* Medications to dissolve gallstones: Medications you take by mouth may help dissolve gallstones. But it may take months or years of treatment to dissolve your gallstones in this way. Such as the gallstone is made of cholesterol it can sometimes be slowly dissolved with ursodeoxycholic acid. This type of treatment, known as dissolution, may take up to 24 months to be effective.

* Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy):  If biliary colic or biliary infection recur frequently, surgery to remove your gallbladder may be performed. Fortunately, we can live without our gallbladder. The liver produces enough bile to digest a normal diet.

* Lithotripsy: Ultrasonic shock waves are aimed at the gallstones which break them up. If they become small enough they can then pass safely in the patients stools. This type of treatment is uncommon and is only ever used when there are few gallstones present.

* Natural Remedies for Gallstones: CLICK HERE for details.

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