This article will define gallstones, telling you how common they are, discuss their symptoms, treatments, and whether you may need surgery.
The gallbladder is part of the biliary system in the body. It helps in digestion by storing bile produced by the liver and secreting it into the small intestine when fats need to be digested.
What Are Gallstones?
Gallstones form in the gallbladder due to bile cholesterol, bilirubin, or other components.
- They can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball.
- Gallstones can be asymptomatic (cause no symptoms). But when they cause problems, the most common symptom is a pain in the upper right abdomen that may radiate to the back.
- Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by the accumulation of bile pigment).
- Treatment options depend on the size and composition of the gallstones and may include lifestyle modifications, medications, and surgery.
How Do Gallstones Affect Your Gallbladder And Digestive Health?
Gallstones can affect your gallbladder and digestive health in a few ways:
- Asymptomatic gallstones may cause no problems, but symptomatic stones can lead to inflammation of the gallbladder.
- Cholecystitis or obstruction of the bile ducts, both of which can lead to serious health complications.
- If a gallstone becomes lodged in the common bile duct, it can block bile flow and result in jaundice.
- Stones that are not removed surgically risk causing infection or rupturing the gallbladder, which can be life-threatening.
What Are Gallstone Symptoms?
The most common symptom of gallstones is pain in the upper right abdomen that may radiate to the back. This pain can vary in intensity and may be intermittent or constant. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and jaundice.
You should see a gastroenterologist if you have any of the following:
- Pain in the upper right abdomen that lasts more than 5 hours and does not improve with over-the-counter medications
- Yellow discoloration of the skin or whites of the eyes
- Clay-colored stools
- Severe abdominal pain that comes on suddenly
When Is Gallbladder Surgery The Only Option?
Gallbladder surgery is the only option for gallstones that cause symptoms and do not respond to other treatments. The most common surgical procedure is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
The surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen and uses a camera and special instruments to remove the gallbladder. Recovery time varies but is typically brief.
When Should You See A Gastroenterologist About Gallstones?
Although some people may never experience any problems from their gallstones, others may find that they need treatment. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it’s essential to speak with your doctor right away.
Gastro Florida Can Help You Treat Gallstones
Do you need more information and care to help with your gallstone symptoms or perhaps surgery? Gastro Florida’s team of professionals is here to help. Set up an appointment with us today, servicing several areas throughout Florida.