The little pear-shaped organ close to your liver really has an important role to play. It releases the bile pigment which helps in breaking your food down and digesting it, particularly fats. When the deposits of this fluid harden inside your gallbladder, they lead to the formation of gallstones. These stones can be as small as the size of sand-grain or as large as a golf ball. Some people may develop only one stone and some may develop too many. Usually, these stones are not harmful but in some cases they may block the passage of bile from the bladder, thereby causing inflammation and pain. This is when a gallbladder removal surgery is required. But before we proceed to that, it is important to note some signs, symptoms, causes, and risks posed by gallstones. Take a look.
Causes of gallstones
Experts are not very clear as to what causes gallstones. However, they say that the following are the major causes of gallstones.
- Too much cholesterol in bile
Normally, the bile has enough chemicals to dissolve the cholesterol excreted by your liver. But sometimes the liver produces too much cholesterol which cannot be broken down by bile. This extra cholesterol forms crystals and stays in your liver in the form of gallstones.
- Excess bilirubin in bile
When your body breaks down red blood cells, it produces bilirubin. It could be due to cirrhosis, blood disorders or biliary tract infections. This extra bilirubin may contribute to the formation of gallstones.
- Gallbladder is not emptying properly
When your gallbladder fails to empty properly, then bile can remain there in concentration. This can result in the formation of gallstones.
Signs and symptoms of gallstones
If the gallstones are not serious, they will not show many signs and symptoms. However, if they block the passage of the bladder, they may show symptoms like:
Intense pain in the upper part of your abdomenIntense pain in the centre of the abdomen, below the breast bonePain between shoulder bladesNauseaVomitingPain in right shoulderThe pain could be anything; from mild to severe. It could last for a few minutes to hours.
When should you see a doctor?
Certain signs and symptoms could be something you need to worry about. They could indicate a serious gallstone condition. These symptoms include:
Excruciating abdominal pain which makes it hard for you to sit comfortablyHigh feverChillsYellowing of skin and eyes
Gallstones can cause excruciating stomach ache
Risk factors for gallstones
Your diet and lifestyle have an impact on your risk of developing gallstones. These two are the controllable factors. However, there are some more uncontrollable risk factors for it. Broadly, the risk factors include:
ObesityEating a diet high in terms of fats and carbsDiabetes mellitusRapid weight loss in short period of timeFamily historyGender (women are at a higher risk of gallstones)Age (above 60)CirrhosisPregnancyHigh estrogen medicationCholesterol-lowering medication
However, you must not leave these medicines completely without your doctor’s approval.