WHAT IS THE GALL BLADDER?
The gallbladder is a small pear sized organ that stores bile.
Bile is necessary for the digestion of fatty food. The bile duct is a tube that carries bile from the liver to the bowel, and attached to this is the gallbladder. However, the gallbladder is not an essential organ and you are able to continue to digest fatty food without it, though about half the people who have their gallbladder removed have some indigestion or bloating from time to time.
What are gallstones?
10-15% of adults develop gallstones. Gallstones form in the gallbladder, most commonly due to an imbalance in the chemical constituents of bile.
What problems do gallstones cause?
Gallstones are common and often cause no problems. However in some people they can cause:
- Pain – This arises if gallstones block the outlet from the gallbladder. It can last minutes to hours and resolve spontaneously (biliary colic). It may however last longer, with inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), often requiring antibiotics
- Pancreatitis – Inflammation of the pancreas gland can occur if a stone passes down the bile duct and irritates the opening to the pancreas.
- Jaundice – This is a condition whereby a patient turns a shade of yellow, often most noticeable in the white of the eyes. It is due to a stone moving from the gallbladder into the bile duct, and partially blocking the flow of bile into the bowel. If this occurs, your urine may become darker, your feces lighter, and your skin may itch.
How are gallstones treated?
A low fat diet may help reduce the pain due to gallstones. There are no drugs available that are able to reduce the symptoms arising from gallstones by dissolving them. The best method to remove the symptoms arising from gallstones is to perform an operation to remove the gallbladder. If only the stones are removed, leaving the gallbladder in place, the stones will re-form.