Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
What are Gallstones
The gallbladder or gallbladder is a gland located under the liver that collects bile, a liquid that has the function of promoting the digestion of fats. Gallstones are ” pebbles ” with a diameter of 5-10 millimeters that form in the gallbladder following the separation from the bile of substances contained in it such as cholesterol, bile pigments and calcium salts. Sometimes they can occupy the common bile duct, which is the canal that reaches the duodenum from the gallbladder. Their presence in the body is a very common problem. Women are affected more than men and the incidence increases with increasing years: 1 person out of 3 over seventy has calculations. Predisposing factors seem to be familiarity, obesity, some drugs (birth control pills), gastrointestinal diseases (Crohn’s disease).
How they manifest
Often patients do not experience serious symptoms but only: digestive difficulty, flatulence, etc. A typical symptom is the ” colic ” which is nothing but a very severe pain localized in the upper right part of the abdomen, under the ribcage or in the right rear part of the back. Nausea, vomiting and even fever may be associated. If the calculus obstructs the bile duct, the bile pours into the blood giving the typical yellow color to the skin and pupil (jaundice). The stool becomes pale, while the urine takes on a dark color similar to tea.
What are the risks
The major risks that can arise in case of gallstones are: gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis), bile duct infections (cholangitis), jaundice, acute pancreatitis and biliary cirrhosis.
What should be done
- Meals should be light, low in fat, as digestion has slowed down.
- Those who are obese or overweight must lose weight, as doing so lowers the concentration of cholesterol in the body and therefore the chances of forming stones.
- Increase the amount of foods rich in fiber (whole wheat bread, bran, vegetables) which has the property of binding bile salts.
- When colic is in progress, lie down until the pain has stopped, drink fluids, and do not take medications unless prescribed by your doctor.
- In the case of prescribing drugs for the dissolution of the stones, take them as indicated by the doctor, remembering that it can take many months of treatment to dissolve the stones and that these can reform when the treatment is stopped.
- Consult with your doctor for other forms of therapy (e.g. surgical or ultrasound therapy).