How to Treat Gallstones

If you swallowed a golfball, you’d probably consider that a medical emergency. But did you know your gall­bladder may hold gallstones as large as a golfball? While most gallstones are much smaller, as tiny as a grain of sand, even the small ones can sometimes cause excruci­ating pain in certain locations.

How do these mysterious stones grow in your body? Your gallbladder stores bile, a yellowish liquid that helps digest fat. It’s made up of water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, and bilirubin, which gives bile its color. Bile is made in the liver, then goes to the gallbladder, which releases it into the intestines to do its digestive duty. Most gallstones develop when your bile contains too much cholesterol. The cholesterol accumulates and crys­tallizes into gallstones.


Sometimes you can have “silent” gallstones which you don’t feel or even know about. The ones you do feel can make you want to scream out in pain, and will probably send you to the nearest doctor or hospital.

Small gallstones sometimes lodge in one of the ducts that lead to or from the gallbladder. If one gets stuck in the cystic duct, which carries bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine, it can painfully inflame your gall­bladder. These stones also can lodge in the duct between the liver and the gallbladder, causing a bile duct infec­tion. Symptoms include jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes), pain in your upper right abdomen, high fever, chills, clay-colored stool, and dark urine. If you have these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately

If you have a serious gallstone problem, your doctor may remove your gallbladder. Because it is just a storage area for bile, it is not a necessary organ. Without it, bile simply flows straight from the liver to the small intestine. Removing the gallbladder is the most common treatment for gallstones, so it is a fairly routine operation. Most people return to their normal eating and bowel habits within a few days after surgery.

Nonsurgical treatments are available which dissolve gallstones, but they may take months or even years to work completely.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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