Updated May 21st, 2024 at 19:46 IST

Do You Have Gallstones? Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Options

While many people with gallstones remain symptom-free, around 10 per cent will experience symptoms within five years.

gallstones | Image:Freepic
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Gallstones are hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver in the upper right abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive fluid. Gallstones form when substances in bile, like cholesterol, harden. While many people with gallstones remain symptom-free, around 10 per cent will experience symptoms within five years.

Symptoms of gallstones

Symptoms typically include pain in the upper right abdomen or the centre of the stomach, often after eating fatty foods. This pain, which can be severe, usually lasts a few hours. If untreated, symptoms can escalate to fever, rapid heartbeat, jaundice, itchy skin, diarrhea, chills, confusion, and loss of appetite, indicating potential gallbladder infection or inflammation.

Image credit : Unsplash
Image credit : Unsplash

Asymptomatic gallstones

Approximately 80 per cent of those with gallstones do not experience symptoms, referred to as “silent gallstones.” These are often discovered incidentally through X-rays or abdominal surgery.

Causes of gallstones

The precise cause of gallstones is unclear, but it involves a chemical imbalance in the bile. Potential factors include:

Excess cholesterol: High cholesterol levels can lead to yellow cholesterol stones if the liver produces more cholesterol than the bile can dissolve.

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Excess bilirubin: Conditions like liver damage or blood disorder.

Image credit: Unsplash
Image credit: Unsplash

Treatment choices

Treatment is unnecessary for asymptomatic gallstones. For symptomatic cases, treatment options include:

Surgery: The most common treatment is cholecystectomy, the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This can be performed laparoscopically, involving small incisions and typically allowing same-day discharge, or as an open surgery, which is necessary for inflamed or infected gallbladders and may require a longer hospital stay.

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Nonsurgical Treatments: For high-risk surgical patients, nonsurgical methods can be attempted, though gallstones may recur, necessitating ongoing monitoring.

Understanding gallstones’ symptoms, causes, and treatment options can help manage this common condition effectively, ensuring timely medical intervention when necessary.

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Published May 21st, 2024 at 19:46 IST