Gallstones characteristics

This article was endorsed by Néstor Zumaya Cárdenas - M.D & Medical Surgeon from the National Autonomous University of Mexico

Characteristics of a gallstone

Stones formed in the gallbladder

What is a gallbladder stone?

A gallstone or stone in the gallbladder (gallstones) is a concretion that forms in the gallbladder when calcium crystals, excessive  cholesterol, and bilirubin that were dissolved in the bile settle.

Symptoms, causes and treatment of the gallbladder

The stones form in the gallbladder, a pear-shaped sac or cavity whose function is to store bile produced by the liver. During digestion, the gallbladder expels bile into the intestine, through the common bile duct. The function of bile is to digest dietary fats.

Composition of gallbladder stones

Gallstones are made up of waste products from the liver, mainly cholesterol, calcium, lecithins, bile pigments (bilirubin), and minerals.

80% of gallstones are made of cholesterol, which is formed when the liver releases more cholesterol than the bile juices can dissolve. Or what is the same, when the bile is too concentrated in cholesterol and it cannot be eliminated and crystallizes. This is usually caused by excess cholesterol in the diet, or by a lack of good quality bile (choline deficiency).

Causes of gallbladder stones

saturated fats
Saturated fats are the main cause of gallstones.

The main causes of gallstones are:

  • Inadequate diet: An inadequate diet, rich in fats and with little fiber, favors the formation of gallstones. Currently, the western diet, based on a diet rich in meat and poor in vegetables and fruits, can lead to these kinds of problem
  • Excess of  cholesterol: An excess of food rich in cholesterol determines that the body cannot use everything and part of it is deposited in the gallbladder.
  • Obesity: Gallstones usually appear more frequently in obese people.
  • Diseases: Certain diseases, such as diabetes, anemia, celiac disease, diseases of the pancreas, etc. They are responsible for the formation of stones in the gallbladder.
  • Toxic products: Similarly, the intake of toxic products, such as alcohol or tobacco, can facilitate their formation.
  • Pregnancy: It has been observed that during and after pregnancy, gallstones are more likely to occur. This is due to a failure of the gallbladder to expel bile, producing the accumulation and concentration of cholesterol in it and favoring the formation of stones (insufficiency of the gallbladder).
  • Taking contraceptives: Certain hormonal factors can increase the risk of gallstones by slowing down gallbladder activity.

Symptoms of gallstones

A gallstone may have no symptoms or very painful episodes (biliary colic), which usually occurs when the stones move from the gallbladder to the bile ducts. In the case of not dissolving, it can affect both the same gallbladder and the liver or pancreas.

The main symptoms of gallbladder stones are:

  • Gas, flatulence, heavy digestion, bloated belly
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back or shoulder pain
  • Nausea, dizziness, or vomiting
  • Little high fever
  • Sternum pain
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • Etc.

Risks of gallstones

Most of the time, gallstones dissolve spontaneously without symptoms. Other times, the stones in the gallbladder cause large painful attacks that can pose a risk to the patient’s health.

If a stone obstructs the bile duct (common bile duct), it can prevent the flow of bile into the intestine (choledocholithiasis) and cause it to accumulate and put pressure on the gallbladder, causing damage and inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).

In case of obstructing the two ducts, biliary and hepatic, the gallstone blocks the exit of pancreatic juices and causes them to be released in the pancreas itself, causing serious damage (since they are digestive juices, they cause digestion of the organ) and causing severe pancreatitis that injures the organ.

Prevention of gallstones

It is much easier to prevent gallstones from forming than to treat them once they are formed. The stones are usually harmless when they are small in size and found in the gallbladder.

Eating the suitable diet  for the stones in the gallbladder is the best way to prevent the appearance of stones or help dilute them.

Diagnosis and treatment of gallstones

The presence of stones in the gallbladder is asymptomatic many times. The doctor may perform tests, such as an abdominal ultrasound and a blood test, to diagnose the existence of gallstones.

The symptoms of a possible biliary colic (expulsion of stones from the gallbladder) always require the attention of the doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment to follow. Since in some cases the consequences can be serious, such as pancreatitis, it is advisable not to avoid the responsibility of going to a doctor.

When a person presents with numerous cases of gallstone attacks or gallstones, the gallbladder is usually removed, a surgical operation known as a cholecystectomy. People undergoing a cholecystectomy operation can consult the type of diet to follow: Diet after removal of the gallbladder.

punto rojo More information about kidney stones.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

8 July, 2020

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