The Pain of Gallstones: Everything you need to know

Do you feel an intermittent pain in the upper right part of your abdomen? Sometimes, you can feel the pain in your back or shoulder? A gallbladder attack can last for anything between a few minutes to a few hours. Luckily, gallbladder stones or gallstones can be treated effectively with the help of an experienced gastrointestinal surgeon.

Gallstones: What do they Mean?

One of the most common digestive problems around the world includes gallbladder stones. In most developed countries, an estimated 10%-15% of people have gallbladder stones. Tucked below the liver, the pear-shaped gallbladder stores bile liquid secreted by the liver. When you consume fatty foods, the gallbladder swings into action and introduces bile juice into the bile duct to aid the digestion process. Bile consists of water, fats, cholesterol, bile acids & salts, proteins, electrolyte chemicals and bilirubin. Now, any change in the chemical balance of bile juice results in the formation of small pebbles or stones in the gallbladder. These gallstones can get stuck in the gallbladder and become the cause of pain.

Mainly, gallstones are of two types:
a. Cholesterol stones - Usually yellow-green in color, they consist of cholesterol.
b. Pigment stones - Dark brown in color, they are made of bilirubin.

What are the Symptoms of Gallbladder Stones?

Not every Gallbladder Stone requires Treatment

About 10% of the population have gallstones in their body. But, a majority of gallbladder stones are "silent" and they do not show any symptoms. Therefore, they need no treatment. But when the gallstones block the flow of bile, they can cause severe pain. If you have any of the following symptoms, you must consult a medical professional immediately.

  • Recurring pain in Upper Right Abdomen, Back or Shoulder
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Indigestion, Bloating and Belching
  • Intolerance of Fatty Foods
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Pancreatitis
  • Discoloration of Urine and Stool

Are you at Risk?

You fall into the risk category of having gallbladder stones if you:

  • Have a family history of gallbladder stones
  • Have excess estrogen from pregnancy or hormone pills
  • Are older than 60 years of age
  • Are overweight/obese
  • Have diabetes/other liver-related ailments
  • Consume diet with high calories/fat and low fiber content
  • Have recently lost a lot of weight
  • Are on medicines that contain a high amount of estrogen

How to treat Gallbladder Stones?

If you have any of the symptoms, visit your gastro surgeon for advice. Usually, abdominal ultrasound will help the doctor in diagnosing the problem. But, you may need gallbladder CT scan along with MRI in case of certain complications.

Your doctor may prescribe you painkillers and anti-biotics to control symptoms of gallbladder stones. But, so far, the only curative medical treatment includes removing the gallbladder in a surgery called cholecystectomy. In the past, GI surgeons usually performed "open" cholecystectomy that included making an incision in the stomach and removing the gallbladder. However, with the advancement in medical science, doctors opt for a minimally-invasive technique called laparoscopic cholecystectomy. As the doctor creates a tiny incision, recovery is much faster than its traditional alternative.

Can a Patient survive without Gallbladder?

Fortunately, you do not need to have a gallbladder for digestion. If you have an issue of gallstones, it shows that the organ in not fully functional. And, even if you remove the stones now, there are chances that the problem will recur in the future. The best alternative is to remove the gallbladder completely.

When the gallbladder is removed, there is no place to store bile and it directly flows out of the liver into the bile duct. Thus, the body can produce bile easily and allow proper digestion without gallbladder. It means that cholecystectomy will not affect your digestive system. Human bodies can easily adapt to the removal of gallbladder without any issue. There is no long-term side effect. Also, the patient is not required to follow any specific dietary restriction.

Is the Cholecystectomy Expensive in Surat?

Usually, the cost of "laparoscopic" cholecystectomy is between 45,000-80,000 rupees in Surat. But the cost can vary depending on the medical complications and the skills of the gastrointestinal surgeon. When it comes to a cholecystectomy, make sure that you choose a reliable GI surgeon with quality hospital infrastructure. Even if your general physician has recommended you a GI surgeon, make sure that you check his reviews online. Learn more about his work, discuss your apprehensions and make an informed decision. Also, do not forget to check whether your insurance provider covers the surgery.

Remember if gallstones are not treated at the right time, the gallbladder may rupture and the infection can spread to other organs. It can also lead to gallbladder cancer. So, if you have any doubt regarding gallstones, it is best to obtain expert advice of a reputed GI surgeon of your area.

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