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Gallstones: What Causes It and How is It Treated?

The gallbladder is a small organ located right below your liver in your upper right abdomen. It is a pouch that stores bile, which is a yellow-green liquid that aids with digestion. When something like gallstones are blocking the bile duct, you might experience issues with the gallbladder. Most of the time, gallstones are created when the substances that are found in bile such as cholesterol, harden. Gallstones are a common problem, and they are most often asymptomatic. However, around ten percent of individuals who develop gallstones will notice symptoms within five years. 

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Symptoms

Gallstones might be asymptomatic, but when symptoms develop, you may feel pain in the centre of your stomach or the top right side of the abdomen. Gallbladder pain might be experienced occasionally if you eat foods that are fat-heavy such as fried food. However, the pain might come on at any time. It will usually be temporary but can be quite severe. When gallstones are left untreated, you might notice other symptoms appearing such as a loss of appetite, high temperature, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, diarrhoea, itchy skin, chills, rapid heartbeat, or confusion. These can indicate an infection in the gallbladder. 

What Causes Gallstones?

Scientists believe that the actual cause of gallstones is a chemical imbalance of the bile inside the gallbladder. While the exact reason for the imbalance is not yet known, there are a few potential options. These include:

High Bilirubin in Bile

Bilirubin is a waste chemical that is produced during the breakdown of red blood cells. Once it has been produced, it is passed through the liver and eventually it is excreted from the body. However, there are certain conditions such as some types of blood disorders or liver damage, that might lead to the liver producing more of this chemical than needed. When your gallbladder is unable to break down the excess, pigment gallstones may occur. 

High Cholesterol in Bile

If there is too much cholesterol in your bile, this can cause cholesterol stones to develop. They are hard and usually yellow in colour. They may develop if your liver is producing too much cholesterol for your bile to successfully dissolve. 

Full Gallbladder

In order to function correctly, your gallbladder should be able to empty its bile. If the bile content of the gallbladder is not fully emptied, this can lead to the bile in the gallbladder becoming too concentrated, ultimately resulting in gallstones forming. 

Treatment for Gallstones

Most of the time, no treatment is needed unless you are in pain with gallstones. You may not even notice when you pass them. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is usually the main treatment option for gallstones since it is not a vital organ, and you can live healthily without it. You can find out more at Birmingham HPB Clinic. Birmingham HPB Clinic specialises in complex treatment and surgery for gallstone conditions. In rare cases, for example, for people for whom surgery is too high of a risk, medication might be offered. 

Gallbladders can be caused by several different reasons. Scientists believe that it is a result of a chemical imbalance in the bile. Most of the time they are not symptomatic, and you may not even notice you have had them. 

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