Home >> Gallstones Treatment
What are Gallstones?
Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile (digestive fluid) that are formed inside a pear-shaped organ called gallbladder.
Mr. Abhay Chopada a laparoscopic general and colorectal consultant specialises in in all aspects related to gall stone treatment and management. As one of UK’s Top Surgical Gastroenterologists, is well known for his expertise in this field.
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that sits under your liver. It acts as a storehouse for bile, which is a fluid produced by your liver to help your body digest fat. When you eat food that contains fat, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. It then is released into your small intestine to help your body break down and absorb the fat.
You are most likely to have problems with your gallbladder if something blocks the flow of bile through the bile ducts. The cause of this is usually a gallstone. The type of gallbladder disease that results from gallstones is called Cholelithiasis.
Gallstones disease is the most common disorder affecting the body’s biliary system.
The network of organs and ducts that create, transport, store, and release bile. Bile is a thick fluid, made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder that acts in the small intestine to digest fat. Bile contains cholesterol, water, proteins, bilirubin (a breakdown product from blood cells), bile salts (the chemicals necessary to digest fat), and small amounts of copper or other materials. If the chemical balance of bile contains too much of any of these components, particularly of cholesterol, crystals form and can harden into stones.
In size, gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. A person can form one large stone in his or her gallbladder, or hundreds. About 10 percent of the population has gallstones, but the vast majority experiences no symptoms and need no treatment. However, in 1 percent to 2 percent of these people, gallstones can cause problems by lodging in bile ducts, stopping the flow of bile or digestive enzymes, and leading to severe abdominal pain, vomiting, inflammation, and even life threatening infection.
Types Of GallstonesThere are three main types of gallstones:
- Mixed stones – the most common type. They are comprised of cholesterol and salts. Mixed stones tend to develop in batches.
- Cholesterol stones – comprised mainly of cholesterol, a fat-like substance that is crucial to many metabolic processes. Cholesterol stones can grow to significant sizes, large enough to block bile ducts.
- Pigment stones – bile is greenish–brown in colour, due to particular pigments. Gallstones made from bile pigment are typically small but numerous.
Causes Of GallstonesCholesterol Stones
Scientists believe cholesterol stones form when bile contains too much cholesterol, too much bilirubin, or not enough bile salts, or when the gallbladder does not empty as it should for some other reason.Pigment Stones
The cause of pigment stones is uncertain. They tend to develop in people who have cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, and hereditary blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia.Other Factors
It is believed that the mere presence of gallstones may cause more gallstones to develop. However, other factors that contribute to gallstones have been identified, especially for cholesterol stones.
- Obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones, especially in women. A large clinical study showed that being even moderately overweight increases one’s risk for developing gallstones. The most likely reason is that obesity tends to reduce the amount of bile salts in bile, resulting in more cholesterol. Obesity also decreases gallbladder emptying.
- Estrogen. Excess estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, or birth control pills appears to increase cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement, both of which can lead to gallstones.
- Ethnicity. Native Americans have a genetic predisposition to secrete high levels of cholesterol in bile. In fact, they have the highest rates of gallstones in the United States. A majority of Native American men have gallstones by age 60. Among the Pima Indians of Arizona, 70 percent of women have gallstones by age 30. Mexican-American men and women of all ages also have high rates of gallstones.
- Gender. Women between 20 and 60 years of age are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men.
- Age. People over age 60 are more likely to develop gallstones than younger people.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs. Drugs that lower cholesterol levels in blood actually increase the amount of cholesterol secreted in bile. This in turn can increase the risk of gallstones.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes generally have high levels of fatty acids called triglycerides. These fatty acids increase the risk of gallstones.
- Rapid weight loss. As the body metabolizes fat during rapid weight loss, it causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into bile, which can cause gallstones.
- Fasting. Fasting decreases gallbladder movement, causing the bile to become over concentrated with cholesterol, which can lead to gallstones.