Gallstones: Stones That Compromise the Gallbladder
Have you been living with on-off acute abdominal pain? Are you one of those people who believe a visit to the doctor is not justified for a ‘minor discomfort’ that disappears after a while with basic pain medication and antacids? Well, perhaps you are right. But then maybe you are not. An acute pain in the abdomen, particularly when it is recurrent and often accompanied by slight fever and chills, can signal a condition that can be more serious than mere indigestion. The culprit may well be a small stone lodged in your gallbladder.
However did I manage to get a stone in my gallbladder!?
A question that may not be easy to answer without some examinations to see the size, position and number of stones lodged in your gallbladder (click here to know more about this). However, you are likely to find that your lifestyle may have played a major role in this. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I a smoker?
- Do I consume more than an optimum amount of alcohol?
- Do I have a preference for fried and high-fat food?
- Am I on the heavier side with a rather ample waistline?
- Is my job of a sedentary nature that keeps me tied to my chair for most of the day?
- Am I a ‘not too keen’ on the exercise front kind of a person?
- Am I not a great believer in maintaining regimens when it comes to my meal times?
- Do I have a preference for proteins like meat and fish over a more fibre-rich diet with vegetables and fruits?
You will find that answers to these questions may give you some indication to the ‘Why me?’ Most gallstones are formed by undissolved cholesterol in our bile, the enzyme produced by the liver. This may largely be related to your lifestyle conditions. Sometimes, however, stones are formed when there is an excess of bilirubin in your bile. This may be the result of a disorder or medical condition like liver disease, diabetes, being pregnant, or a genetic disorder.
So does that mean that if I make changes in my lifestyle, start having a fibre-rich diet, give up smoking and begin exercising, the condition can be resolved?
Well, no. The stones once formed will not dissolve by themselves over some time. In most cases, you will not even be aware of their presence as they rarely give any trouble. However, if you start getting pain with associated symptoms, then it is cause for worry, as it may indicate an infection or a more serious condition.
Will medicines help?
The preferred treatment for gallstones always is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. But why remove the gallbladder when the offending pieces are just the stones? Well simply because once stones develop, gallbladder function gets compromised and it just becomes a site for future health complications, including cancer. So while medications can be used to dissolve the stones, it will not be a complete treatment. It would be something like leaving a wound attended, to fester and come back with a vengeance to bite you again and again.
What if I have stones but am unaware of it?
A very likely situation since gallstones often do not manifest in any symptoms. There have been cases where the presence of stones in the gallbladder has been discovered during examination for some other conditions, like jaundice, pancreatitis or other conditions related to the gastrointestinal system. In such cases, the doctor would always recommend surgical removal if he/she feels the condition is related. In instances where there may be no indication of any direct co-relation, one can adopt a wait and watch approach. However, there’s a rider to this. There have been instances where gallstones have been left untreated as they were not giving any trouble, yet at a later stage in life have developed malignancy. So there really is no sure shot way of identifying which cases require surgery and which don’t. Nowadays doctors usually recommend surgical removal of the gallbladder when stones are detected as a means of preventing future complications.
To know more about the treatment methods and complications associated with gallstones, click here.