If you are interested in learning about the gallbladder - symptoms of gallstones, gall bladder problems and gall bladder treatments, you will find the following information helpful.
The gallbladder is a small sac next located to the liver and is used for storing bile, a greenish brown liquid that plays a key role in digestion. When the chemical balance of the bile is upset, small particles begin to accumulate and grow into ‘gallstones’. This condition is also known as cholelithiasis.
This article on gallstones is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Gallstones are small, hard lumps of material composed of cholesterol, calcium carbonate (chalk) and calcium bilirubinate. They form in the gallbladdder and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from fine gravel up to the size of a pea. Occasionally, however, the gallstones can combine to form a single ‘stone’ that fills the entire gall bladder.
Causes of Gallstones
Around 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men will form gallstones during their lifetime. For reasons that are not fully understood, gallstones are more common if you’re overweight, have recently lost weight, or have ever been pregnant.
However, it’s clear that gallstones are usually a result of too much cholesterol in the bile, which can be caused by:
- a high cholesterol diet
- an excess of refined carbohydrates (like white bread and cakes)
- using oral contraceptives
- advancing age
- genetic disorders (like hypercholesteroaemia)
- liver disease
In rare cases, gall stones arise from excess bilirubin (a waste product from the breakdown of old red blood cells). This is more likely to be seen in patients suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, infection in the bile tube, and sickle cell anaemia.
Symptoms of Gallstones
Most people with gallstones do not even realise they have them. However, they can give rise to one or more of the following gallstone symptoms:
severe pain in the upper abdomen
fever caused by inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis)
inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
infection of the bile duct (cholangitis)
nausea and vomiting
jaundice, if bile seeps into the bloodstream
The pain will worsen if a gallstone becomes lodged in the bile duct into the duodenum; a condition known as biliary colic. It often occurs half an hour after a fatty meal, when the level of cholesterol in the bile is greatest.