How do I know if I have gallstones?
Gallstones are small stones that form inside a person’s gallbladder - the organ directly beneath your liver. These stones can either be miniature in size or as big as your gallbladder itself.
Between meals, it’s normal for the gallbladder to be filled with bile. When you consume foods that are high in fat, the bile is emptied into the intestine. Gallstones can irritate the gallbladder or clog it and prevent it from emptying. If these stones are pushed out, they can also keep the liver and pancreas from emptying as well.
Sometimes, it is likely that you may not suffer any symptoms. In this case, it’s unlikely that you will require treatment. If you do, these include:
It’s important to note that while symptoms can come and go, they often get worse over time.
In fact, if your condition is particularly serious, you may experience the following:
How can I get tested and treated?
Your doctor will be able to detect the presence of gallstones primarily through an ultrasound. Here, sound waves are used to obtain an image of your gallbladder.
It’s important to note that even if you do have gallstones, these may not necessarily be causing your symptoms. If this is the case, your doctor may perform other tests to determine the cause of your illness.
Gallstones are primarily treated through surgery. However, this will depend on the size of your stones, what kind of symptoms you’re experiencing, and how you feel about your treatment options.
During surgery, both your gallbladder and stones are removed. The surgery does not affect your digestive patterns and habits too much and around half of those who undertake surgery experience mild after-effects, including gas, bloating, and loose bowel movements. Following surgery, gallstones rarely form again.
Alternatively, if your gallstones aren’t causing you any symptoms, you may not require any kind of treatment.
How do I prevent gallstones from forming?
If you wish to prevent this from happening again or worsen your symptoms, maintaining a healthy weight is key.
If you’re overweight, losing weight quickly, for example through weight loss surgery, can lead to gallstones. So make sure you consult your doctor before taking any drastic measures.
Gallstone pain feels like a sharp, intensifying pain that originates from the centre of your abdomen, right underneath the breast bone. You may even experience pain between your shoulder blades.
Gallstones can go away on their own but they usually don’t. It’s recommended that you take treatments to dissolve the gallstone or remove them surgically if the symptoms get worse
The following symptoms may indicate that your gallbladder isn’t functioning properly:
Severe pain at the centre of the abdomen
Pain when you breath
Yes, you should. If you have any of the typical symptoms of gallbladder problems, visit a gastroenterologist immediately.
Yes. Stomach bloating is a common symptom of gallstones and it’s usually accompanied by pain in the abdomen.
Though it does not necessarily cause gallstones to form, a low-fat diet can mean less bile being secreted during digestion because there is less fat in the food and this may lead to the bile remaining in the bile duct and turning into gallstones.
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