As people become older, they are more prone to various ailments and illnesses, and this is especially true for conditions such as gallstones. Almost everyone has heard of gallstones, of course, and most of us probably know of a relative, a friend, or a colleague who has suffered from the condition – and who has probably had their gallstones removed through surgery as well. But while, on the whole, gallstones are relatively painless and can exist with no symptoms – in fact, there are many individuals who may not even know they have a problem – the condition can quickly become a problem if there is a complication, and complications can occur for a variety of reasons. So what precisely should you know about gallstones, and what are the symptoms and treatment for the condition? Here’s your all-important guide to gallstones: general info, symptoms, treatment, and more.
What they are and the symptoms
In general, a gallstone is a small or tiny stone made up of cholesterol, which forms in a person’s gallbladder. In many cases, as previously mentioned, they don’t come with any symptoms, and most people will not require treatment for them.
But if the gallstone ends up being trapped in a duct or opening within the gallbladder, this can cause sudden and debilitating pain in the abdomen which can last from between one to five hours. There are other complications associated with gallstones, such as cholecystitis or gallbladder inflammation, and this can also result in consistent and intense pain as well as the yellowing of the eyes and skin, also known as jaundice. Other symptoms of complications include high temperature. When gallstones cause complications or symptoms, this is known as cholelithiasis or gallstone disease.
The causes of gallstones
Gallstones can be caused by a variety of things, but many experts (such as the experts in gallbladder surgery in London from The London Surgical Group) believe they are caused by a particular imbalance in regards to the chemical composition of bile within the gallbladder. In a majority of cases, a person’s cholesterol level in their bile can become too high, with the excess cholesterol then forming into stones.
The thing about gallstones is that they are quite common, and it is said that about one in every ten individuals in the UK can have gallstones, but only a small number will exhibit symptoms. There are certain people who may be more at risk of developing the condition, however, and these are people who are obese or overweight, females (especially those who have had children), and people who are over 40.
The treatment for gallstones
Treatment for the condition can be quite simple, as confirmed by the same gallstone surgery London specialists from The London Surgical Group, but treatment will usually only be a necessity if the gallstones result in symptoms (such as abdominal pain) or complications (such as acute pancreatitis or jaundice). If treatment is required, then procedures such as a laparoscopic cholecystectomy can be performed by a qualified surgeon, and the procedure is relatively common and straightforward and comes with a low risk of problems or complications. People who no longer have a gallbladder can lead a good, normal existence, as the liver can still provide bile for food digestion, although the bile will just flow into the small intestine instead of building up or accumulating in the gallbladder.