Gallstones: What Are They And How Do They Happen?
Your gallbladder may be small, but it can cause big pain if you suffer from gallstones.
Located just beneath the liver, your gallbladder stores bile – fluids, fat and cholesterol – and delivers these fluids to the small intestine to ensure that your digestive system run smoothly. However, an excess amount of these fluids may put you at risk for developing gallstones.
What are gallstones?
Gallstones are small, hard masses of digestive fluid that can cause severe abdominal pain and hinder the digestive process. Other symptoms of gallstones include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, yellow skin or eyes, and dark urine.
Gallstones are very common, affecting more than 3 million Americans every year. However, they sometimes show no symptoms, making them difficult to detect. In this case, patients may not discover they have gallstones until they experience a gallstone attack, where a stone blocks the bile duct and results in severe abdominal pain for several hours.
Several things can lead to excessive digestive fluid in the gallbladder and, ultimately, gallstones. The most common culprits are genetics, obesity, hormonal medications like birth control, underlying conditions such as diabetes, and drastic changes in diet.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you are experiencing symptoms or believe you may be at a higher risk of developing gallstones, your doctor will then conduct a physical exam, blood testing and perhaps additional scans.
Gallstones can be treated by surgical removal of the gallbladder or medication to dissolve the stones. Medication is typically only prescribed to those who are unable to undergo surgery due to other health issues. About 80 percent of people with gallstones will need surgery.
Today, most gallbladder removals are done laparoscopically so the incisions are very small. Most patients go home the same day as surgery and recover much faster than with other surgery. You should not experience any digestive problems as a result of removing your gallbladder.
Your diet is crucial for preventing gallstones. Since most causes of gallstones are centered on diet-related behaviors and health conditions, you can take steps to avoid developing them by eating right. Be sure to eat foods that are high in fiber and healthy fats and are low in calories. Avoid refined sugar and carbohydrates, as well as unhealthy fats, most commonly found in fried food.
If you think you may have developed gallstones or have experienced a gallstone attack, schedule an appointment with a general surgeon.
UCF Health provides general surgery services to cover patient’s surgical needs. Procedures are done in local hospitals.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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