The gallbladder is a small organ located under the liver that functions to store and release bile, which helps in digesting fats and removing wastes. Sometimes, you may feel severe and sharp gallbladder pain which can be caused due to gallstone blockage.
Gallstones are stone-like objects that form in the gallbladder or common bile ducts. Gallstones can be as tiny as the size of a sand grain to as large as a golf ball. People with this gallbladder disease, also known as cholecystitis, may have one to several gallstones of different sizes in their gallbladder.
Gallstones are a very common gallbladder disorder affecting an estimated 20.5 million adults in the United States based on the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It is common for people to have gallstones and don’t know about it until discovered accidentally by some medical test or they block the bile duct, causing inflammation of the gallbladder.
If you experience symptoms from your gallstones, learn their types and identify what causes this gallbladder disease to get the right treatment from your family care doctor.
Types of Gallstones
Different types of gallstones form in the gallbladder. The two most common types are cholesterol gallstones and pigment gallstones.
- Cholesterol Stones – These are generally yellow, dark green or brown in color. They are the most common type, results in 80% of gallstones. They can be formed due to the presence of too much cholesterol or bilirubin (a dark yellowish waste substance) in the bile which thickens the bile and crystallized the cholesterol.
- Pigment Stones – These are small, dark brown or black-colored stones form due to high levels of bilirubin or other minerals in the bile. People with liver cirrhosis, hemolytic anemia or bile duct infection are more prone to this kind of gallstones.
Besides, there are brown or dark green mixed stones that mostly contain calcium carbonate and cholesterol, and radio-opaque gallstones with the calcium content.
What Causes Gallstones?
There are multiple factors that prompt the development of gallstones. Some common causes are:
Cholesterol Imbalances – Higher concentration of cholesterol in bile causes crystallization, which can eventually form gallstones.
Excessive Bilirubin Exertion – Certain blood disorders cause the liver to produce excessive bilirubin, which may lead to pigment stones as it contributes to the formation of biliary sludge. This sludge may lead to bile stagnation within the gallbladder which thickens and precipitate particles forming gallstones.
Pharmaceutical Drugs – Medications containing octreotide, estrogen and some cholesterol-lowering medications increase the presence of cholesterol in the bile, causing the formation of gallstones.
Certain Diseases – Cirrhosis, diabetes, low thyroid, gallbladder infection, and hemolytic anemia are some of the diseases that cause gallstones.
Weight Issues – Obesity is linked to a gallstone. Obese people are at high risk of having this gallbladder disorder. Problems with rapid weight loss like dehydration and malnutrition can cause storage of thick concentration bile.
Unhealthy Diet – Consumption of a high-cholesterol, high-fat or low-fiber diet increases the concentration level of cholesterol, causing gallstone formation.
Gastrointestinal Issues – Pre-existence of issues like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease or leaky gut can lead to forming gallstones.
Unavoidable Risk Factors – There are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing gallstones. They include family history, age (60 years or more), gender (especially females), and hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to developing gallstones.
Symptoms of Gallstones
The duration and severity of gallstones vary among individuals. The symptoms of gallstones are mostly absent and can be diagnosed by the family medicine doctor following routine blood and other tests. If you do get symptoms, they may generally include the following:
- Severe pain felt at the upper right part of your abdomen
- Back pain between your shoulder blades
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever with chills
- A yellow tint to the skin or Jaundice may develop
- Digestive problems like gas, bloating, heartburn, and indigestion
Diagnosis & Treatment for Gallstones
The chronic symptoms of gallstones often feel similar to irritable bowel syndrome. That’s why it is important to get it diagnosed accurately from your family practice doctor to prevent any complications. Your family physician will gather and analyze your health history, diet, and other related details.
Based on your physical exam, you may be advised for one or few of the examinations, such as the complete blood test, CT scan, ultrasonography, endoscopic ultrasound, magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), cholescintigraphy (HIDA scan), and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).
There are various invasive and non-invasive ways of treating this gallbladder disease. However, the most common highly recommended measure by experienced family care doctors is surgery.
Surgical Procedure – The different types of surgeries available for the gallstones removal include laparoscopic cholecystectomy, open cholecystectomy, percutaneous cholecystostomy, endoscopic sphincterotomy (ES).
Non-invasive Treatment – Shock wave lithotripsy, antibiotic treatment for infections, and medications to control severe pain are some non-surgical procedures that doctors of family medicine in Brooklyn prescribe to treat this digestive disorder.
If you develop any signs or symptoms of gallstones, don’t leave it untreated. Seek professional medical care immediately from the best family practice clinic like Artisans of Medicine. Call us today to plan a visit.