Gallstones are solid matter formed in the gallbladder which is part of the bile system including the liver and the pancreas. The gallbladder is up on the right hand side of the abdomen just below the rib cage. Whilst gallstone problems tend to affect mainly women, men can be affected too. Here are the symptoms to look out for.
Gallbladder: What is it for and when does it go wrong?
Gallbladder The gallbladder is part of the bile system which produces digestive enzymes to help process foods, in particular fat. Bile production takes place in the liver and includes cholesterol and a substance called bilirubin. It is stored in the gallbladder, a small sac-like organ, until a high fat and high cholesterol meal is eaten. The bile is injected from the gall bladder into the small intestine through the common bile duct to help the body digest the food. Gallstones Gallstones are solid particles formed from the bile and may vary in size from tiny particles to pieces the size of a golf ball. Many people have gallbladder stones and have no symptoms or problems at all. There are two types of stone: cholesterol stones caused by too much cholesterol in the bile, which account for 80% of gallstone problems, and pigment stones caused by an excess of bilirubin. If the stones remain in the gallbladder, they will generally cause the patient no problems. It's when they move that the patient will feel symptoms.
Symptoms and treatment of gallstone problems.
If a gallstone moves into the bile duct, it may cause a blockage which will increase pressure in the gallbladder and lead to a number of symptoms. This is most likely to occur after a high fat meal and most often at night. Gallbladder pain comes on suddenly and is often referred to as an 'attack'.
The pain is felt in the upper right abdomen and is severe. It can also be felt in the back between the shoulder blades or under the right shoulder and can last from 30 minutes to up to five hours. If the patient suffers from vomiting, fever, yellowing of the skin or eyes or clay coloured stools, he should go to the hospital as he may be suffering from an inflamed gallbladder which could lead to further serious complications.
Always advise your doctor if you feel you have had a gallbladder attack, even if it was a very mild one, perhaps nausea after eating a high fat meal for example. For mild disease, your doctor will prescribe a gallstone diet and perhaps some medications. If the disease is severe, then it is likely the gallbladdder will be removed surgically. Final word If you suspect you may have gallstones, consult your doctor.