What are gall bladder stones?
Gall stones are stones that form in the gall bladder or bile ducts. These are not actual stones, but they are usually either an accumulation of cholesterol (called cholesterol gall stones) or black pigments (breakdown products of hemoglobin when there is increased destruction of red blood cells ) and brown pigments (caused by infection of bile). Cholesterol gallstones is the most common type of gallstones comprising almost 80% incidences of gallstones.
Gallstone occurrences have become quite common these days. Gallstone surgeries are one of the most common surgeries in middle aged males and females that lead to unnecessary anesthesia exposure and complications that are seen with any abdominal surgery. If gall stones are left untreated for a long period of time, they can also increase the risk of cancer of gallbladder. It is therefore important to know the causes of gallstones and how these can be avoided.
What causes Gallstone formation:
There are several types of stones in gall bladder and all these types have different reasons to occur. An evaluation of the causes of gall stones on the basis of their types is as follows:
- Ethnic and genetic factors
Genetics and ethnicity seems to have the greatest impact on gallstone occurrence. Some ethnic groups (such as Indians, Mexican-Americans, Scandinavians) seem to have a higher incidence of gallstones compared to others. Also genetic factors seem to have a big bearing on who develops gallstones.
- Excessive secretion of cholesterol:
Usually the cholesterol secreted by liver is dissolved in the bile juice (also produced by the liver). Bile juice is a kind of digestive juice that is used to carry the cholesterol and other lipids as part of the digestive process in the small intestines. If the secretion of cholesterol is too much for these juices to dissolve, it causes the precipitation of cholesterol in gall bladder. Similarly if enough amounts of bile are not secreted, the dissolution of cholesterol is not possible resulting in rapid formation of cholesterol particles.
- Excessive breakdown of blood cells:
Usually pigments are released as byproducts of many reactions going on in the body. If these products are not disposed-off properly, they accumulate in the form of stones. For example hemoglobin after degradation gets converted to black brown pigment, when combines with calcium to form dark colored stone which sticks together and grows to from gallstone. Hemolytic anemia (in which cell breakdown increases) is strongly related to gall-stones.
It is believed that female gender is more vulnerable to develop gallstones. This is due to changes in cholesterol metabolism.
Sign and symptoms of gallstones:
Most prominent sign and symptoms of gallstones are:
Pain in upper abdomen:
- Pain in right side of abdomen or mid-side is a very clear sign of gallstones. In most cases the pain is so severe that hospitalization is required to control pain. Pain is especially associated with fatty and spicy meals.
- Nausea and vomiting: It is another feature of gallstones.
- Pain upon touching or applying pressure in upper abdomen
What can you do to avoid gallstones?
- Maintaining hydration is very important so increase your water intake up to 7 to 10 glass of water.
- If you develop gallstones, do not consume spicy and fatty meals for dinner as slow digestion may evoke pain.
- After any meal, prop up or sit for 30 minutes and do not lie down for at least 1 hour.