Gallstones are little stones that form in the gallbladder. A small organ on the upper-right side of your abdomen, the gallbladder is responsible for storing bile and releasing it to help with digestion. When the level of cholesterol in the bile gets too high, gallstones can appear. Their size ranges from a golf ball to no bigger than a grain of salt.
Although considered to be a fairly common condition, the vast majority of people with gallstones never have symptoms. As a matter of fact, gallstones are not the immediate cause of pain. When gallstones clog the bile duct, people affected may experience a cramp-like pain in their upper-right abdomen.
Regular exercise and a diet high in phytonutrients help with decreasing the risk of gallstones forming. For people experiencing biliary colic or gallbladder attacks, the best course of action is usually gallbladder removal surgery.
A physical examination can help diagnose gallstones. Dr. Dasari will check your eyes and your skin, specifically looking for any signs of a yellowish tint. This could potentially signal jaundice, indicating an excessive amount of ursodeoxycholic acid (the acid contained in bile).
The following steps may include the use of tests that will help Dr. Dasari see what’s going on inside your body. Among others, the tests are:
An ultrasound, producing images of your abdomen.
An abdominal CT scan, taking pictures of your liver and abdominal region.
Blood tests, measuring the level of bilirubin in your blood.
Other possibilities include a gallbladder radionuclide scan and/or an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.
Gallstones can be asymptomatic for years, usually because they stay in the gallbladder without blocking the release of its content. When that happens though, symptoms include a surging pain in the upper part of your abdomen. The pain is mostly located on the right side, between the ribs and the shoulder blade. It is also accompanied by the following signs:
The most common times to experience a gallbladder attack are after a heavy meal or after drinking. It almost always happens at night.
Gallstones are not usually treated. Only if the gallbladder gets inflamed is it then appropriate to treat them, either medically, or surgically.
The medical treatments usually consist of dissolving the stones with ursodeoxycholic acid. This can only be performed if the gallstones are made of cholesterol, and it can take up to 24 months to slowly dissolve them all. Not as effective as a surgical intervention. It is, however, the only option for people who cannot undergo surgery.
The most common surgical treatment is called a cholecystectomy, and consists of removing the gallbladder altogether. The operation requires general anesthesia, but has a high chance of eliminating the recurrence of stones issues.
Missing a gallbladder should have no negative consequences in most cases. However, on rare occasions, people can feel nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, and abdominal pain because of it.
Other treatments include an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography–where a flexible camera is inserted through the mouth to the gallbladder to help remove the gallstones, or lithotripsy–where ultrasonic shock waves help break the stones up.
No matter the situation, Dr. Dasari strongly believes in a personalized approach to any treatment. Your needs will always be taken into account during the diagnosis, and the medical or surgical procedures will be adapted accordingly.