Having a gallstone can be extremely painful and frustrating. If you think you may have a gallstone or your doctor has told you that you have gallstone you may be wondering exactly what that means and what a gallstone is.
First it is important to understand the nature of how the gallbladder works in order to understand how a gallstone is formed. The liver is responsible for creating bile. Bile is a liquid that is made in order to aid in the digestion of food inside the intestine. Bile is extremely important in digesting dietary fats and without enough bile our foods cannot be digested properly. When the liver creates the bile it then makes its way through the course of various ducts within the liver until it reaches the common bile duct. Once it has reached the common bile duct the bile can enter the intestine and start digesting the consumed food, or it can flow into the cystic duct and end up inside the gallbladder.
Once the bile reaches the gallbladder the bile is then concentrated. The water is removed from the bile and when a meal is consumed the gallbladder begins to contract and release the concentrated bile back out the cystic duct and through the common duct to the intestine for the digestion of food. The concentrated bile is much stronger and digests food much quicker than the other bile that is released into the intestine without first going to the gallbladder.
Although there are a few different types of gallstones that one can get. The most common form of gallstones is caused by cholesterol. Cholesterol is secreted into the bile from the liver. By releasing the cholesterol into the bile, the body is able to get rid of the unwanted substance. Since bile is composed of a watery substance it is not able to dissolve the fatty cholesterol on its own and therefore the liver secretes two other substances known as bile acids and lecithin into the bile in order to help break down the fat and eliminate it from the body. However in the event that the liver does not secrete enough of the bile acid and lecithin into the bile the bile cannot break down all the cholesterol. When this occurs, some of the cholesterol remains intact and eventually grows together to form gallstones.
There are other forms of gallstones that can occur as well however regardless of the gallstone that has formed the symptoms may remain the same. Many people who have gallstones can have gallstones for years without any symptoms at all. However, if a gallstone becomes lodged inside one of the various types of bile ducts pain can become severe. When this occurs it is also referred to as biliary colic.
When a bile duct becomes blocked by a lodged gallstone, the pain usually comes on suddenly and intensifies over the matter of a few minutes. The pain is constant and will not fade until the gallstone has moved out of the duct. This can take a matter of minutes or even hours. In some cases, the gallstone becomes lodged and is not passed within a short amount of time which means that medical help is warranted.
When a gallstone becomes lodged inside a bile duct the pain can be severe and may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting. The pain is often felt in the upper middle part of the abdomen or in the right upper part of the abdomen under the rib area. Others who have suffered from gallstones have also complained of having pain in the lower right side of the back.
If a person falls ill with severe pain from a lodged gallstone or has recurrent problems with gallstones, it may be necessary to undergo surgery in order to remove the gallstones manually. There are also medications that one may take that can help dissolve the gallstones over time. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for a person to have recurrent gallstones or problems once the initial gallstone episode has occurred.
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