Gallstone Pain

The location of gall bladder is at the bottom of the liver, which is used to store bile.  The shape of Gall Bladder is in the form of a pear.

Function of the Gall Bladder

The gall bladder stores the bile so that there is enough supply when it is needed especially after a meal. Bile helps in digestion of fatty food. When food is ingested, hormone cholecystokinin is released and this signals the relaxation of the bile duct valve to let in bile in the small intestine. Bile is continually produced in the liver and while some of it goes direct to the small intestine, some is stored in gall bladder.

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If you eat a meal that contains fat, bile is released and helps emulsify the fats. Bile is also a powerful antioxidant and helps remove toxins from the liver. Liver acts as a processing organ and is able to filter toxins and pathogens like viruses, bacteria, drugs, and chemical substances, which are sent out to the small intestines through the bile as media of transport. From the small intestine, the toxins join other wastes and are excreted through the intestinal tract.

Gallbladder Diseases

There are many conditions associated with gallbladder disease and the most common type is gallstones. Other conditions are biliary dyskinesia, cholecystitis, cholangitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, gallbladder cancer, and gallbladder polyps.

Causes of Gallstones

Gallstones are formed as a result of too much cholesterol in bile. Excess of the cholesterol is likely to form crystals, which harden to form gallstones. This condition affects people of all ages and it rare in young persons. As people age, the more they are likely to develop these stones. People who have relatives with gallstones are also likely to develop the condition. Obese people are at a higher risk of developing gallstones.

People with high cholesterol levels also tend to suffer from the condition. Use of drugs containing oestrogen like contraceptive pills by women may lead to the problems. Persons with diseases like chronic inflammation of the intestine including ulceration and crohn’s disease are also at higher risks of suffering gallstones.

Although not all people with gallstones will show symptoms, those that show signs will experience chronic cholecystitis also referred to as biliary colic. This is an inflammation of the gall bladder and leads to pain in the upper abdomen or on the right side below the ribs. The pain may become worse for a repeated time for example one hour and subsides thereafter. In addition, the pain is likely to spread to the shoulder on the right side between the blades and shoulder. At times, the pain may be accompanied by vomiting and nausea with occasional excessive wind.

People with gallstones will also experience acute cholecystitis, which is an abrupt inflammation of the gall bladder. This condition leads to persistent pain and increased temperature that may last for about 12 hours or more. There is also pain and tenderness within the right side of the ribs. The pain intensifies when a person coughs or moves.

Another symptom that manifests in people with gallstones is jaundice, which is a yellow discoloration of the skin as well as whitishness in the eyes. Jaundice occurs when there is obstruction of the bile from the liver, which may partly be caused by gallstones. A person with jaundice has itchy skin, dark urine and pale bowel.

Treatment of gallstones varies depending on the symptoms. Those patients showing no symptoms may not require treatment. A low fat diet may be recommended to help alleviate the symptoms but if this does not work, other forms of medications are sought. Dissolution therapy is used to dissolve some forms of gallstones though it may take long for the stones to disintegrate. Cholecystectomy surgical procedure may be done to remove the gallbladder and stones.

Other gallbladder diseases

Another condition of gallbladder is acalculous cholecystopathy, which manifests without gallstones. It is an impaired gallbladder, which is not able to empty bile. Similarly, inflammation of the bile duct itself can lead to condition known as cholangitis. This may be caused by bacteria when bile stagnates within the duct.

Moreover, the bile duct of the liver can harden causing obstruction in flow of bile. This leads to a condition known as primary sclerosing cholangitis, which appears in form of inflamed bile ducts, and breaking down as well as hardening (fibrosis) of the ducts. The condition may lead to itching due to back up of bile and yellowing because of lack of bile in blood (jaundice).

The gallbladder may also suffer cancer growth. Gallbladder cancer rarely shows any symptoms and it may only be detected when the gallbladder is removed because of other reasons like gallstones. By the time the cancer is diagnosed, it has already advanced and treatment can be difficult.

In essence, there are many conditions, which affect the gall bladder and impair the storage and release of bile from the bladder. Treatment of these conditions varies depending on the type and the severity of the underlying condition. The most common of the gall diseases is the gallstones, which are caused by deposits of cholesterol that harden into crystals affecting the release of bile for its intended function in body.

Gallstones Pictures


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