Gallstones Part #1

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This week we write about gallstones and why they develop. In next week’s part 2 on gallstones, we will discuss solutions and ways to prevent gallstones. Please stay tuned for part 2 next week.

INTRODUCTION

Gallstone disease is quite common, affecting up to 15% of adults (Di Ciaula, 2018).

Gallstones are small, hard deposits that form inside the gallbladder. The gallbladder is under the liver in the upper right region of the abdomen.

Gallstones can vary in size from a grain of sand to the size of a golf ball. Some people develop just one gallstone, while others may develop many gallstones at the same time. Most gallstones are cholesterol gallstones, found in more than 80% of patients with gallstones (Di Ciaula, 2018).

Function of the Gallbladder & Bile:

The main purpose of the gallbladder is to store bile, which is needed for the digestion of fats in food. Bile from the gallbladder also helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. Bile is produced by the liver. It travels from the liver’s hepatic ducts into the gallbladder, where it is stored. Eating a meal that contains even a small amount of fat signals the gallbladder to release bile, which flows through two small tubes or ducts into the upper part of the small intestine, where it will help to digest fats.

Gallstones Symptoms:

Symptoms may not be obvious until gallstones reach a certain size or if the gallstone obstructs the bile ducts. If a gallstone gets stuck in a duct and causes a blockage, the resulting signs and symptoms may include:

  • Severe and sudden pain in the upper right abdomen and possibly extending to the upper back between the shoulder blades
  • Back pain
  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • Fever and shivering
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Clay colored stools or dark urine
  • Burping
  • Diarrhea and indigestion

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