Fatty Meals Spark Off Gallstones Pain

Posted on 2013-10-09 05:38:54

Gall stones form when bile in the gall bladder gets over-concentrated, and solidifies forming small crystals. These then become trapped in the gallbladder, and over time they grow larger. The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ is located just beneath the liver and is approximately 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm) long and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. It is connected to the passage from the liver to the small intestine known as the bile duct. The gallbladders main function is to store and concentrate bile which is a digestive liquid secreted by the liver and helps in the digestion of fat. Cholelithiasis is a condition where gall stones are present in the gallbladder. What are the risk factors for gall stones? Gall stones are more common in women, and occur in adulthood. Other risk factors include:
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy – gall stones tend to be more common in women who have had multiple pregnancies
  • Gall bladder stasis – conditions that reduce the flow of bile encourage formation of gallstones e.g. long periods of fasting especially with fat restriction, rapid weight loss e.t.c
  • Certain drugs such as contraceptives, certain classes of cholesterol-lowering drugs e.t.c
  • Heredity – gallstones have been shown to run in families.
  What are the symptoms of gall stones? Gall stones can remain in the in the gall bladder without causing any symptoms for years. The most common symptom of gall stones is pain usually referred to as biliary colic. This occurs when the gall bladder contracts to release bile, and pushes a stone against its opening. This increases the pressure in the gall bladder causing pain. The pain usually begins about an hour after a fatty meal, gradually worsens over 20mins and may remain as a dull ache for 1 to 5 hours. Once the contraction passes, the stone may fall back into the gall bladder and the pain gradually subsides. However this pain is unpredictable. Other symptoms that develop may be due to complications rather than the mere presence of the gall stones in the gallbladder. These include the inflammation that results in the gallbladder when a stone passes into the cystic duct or the common bile duct. This inflammation (cholecystitis) causes abdominal pain on the upper right abdomen which does not resolve, but worsens and becomes constant. How do you test for gall stones? When there are no symptoms, gall stones may be found incidentally during testing for other conditions on ultrasound or CT scan. In diagnosis of gall stones or other gall bladder disease, ultrasound is the procedure of choice. Laboratory tests may be normal in patients with gall stones, except when there is inflammation of the gall bladder (cholecystitis) in which case the white blood cell count may be elevated. What is the treatment for gall stones? Gall stones without symptoms may not require any treatment. Once the symptoms develop, surgical removal of the gall bladder is advised except in cases where surgery may be too risky. This surgery is called cholecystectomy. In cases where surgery may be too risky such cases, the non-surgical options include:
  • Drugs to dissolve the gall stones
  • Lithotripsy – this involves use of ultrasonic shockwave to breakdown the gallstones
Cholecystectomy involves surgical removal of the gall bladder which is now commonly done laparascopically.