Gallstones occur when fluid from the gallbladder hardens and forms small pebble-like formations. It is believed that this occurs when there is too much cholesterol in the bile. After forming, a gallstone may move beyond the gallbladder and block a bile duct, causing pain and discomfort in separate portions of the body. There are several cures available, both surgical and non-invasive, for the elimination of gallstones.
Most gallstones do not exhibit any symptoms and lie dormant in the gallbladder, often for several years. These are known as silent gallstones. When an individual has silent gallstones, a certain level of observation is imperative to determine the proper course of action. For example, treatment is not typically given to individuals over 65 with gallstones because it is likely they will pass away without ever experiencing adverse symptoms. Likewise, individuals with fatal complications such as heart disease often do not opt for treatment on account of their shortened life expectancy.
A cholecystectomy is a surgical removal of the gallbladder. This is typically done through an abdominal incision or small puncture in the abdominal wall. Both methods are considered safe and carry little risk of serious side effects. However, the latter has been known to cause less pain and typically has a more nominal recovery time. What side effects there are include diarrhea and damage to the bile ducts.
A sphincterotomy becomes necessary when gallstones move out of the gallbladder and into the bile ducts. It is performed by using an electrosurgical device passed through an endoscope (flexible tube that can be inserted into a bodily orifice). A surgeon will cut the sphincter and then insert the electrosurgical device into the bile ducts to physically cut or crush the gallstones. A device that uses sound waves to break up gallstones may also be employed.
It is possible for some gallstones to be removed by oral medication. In these cases, a bile acid is taken in pill form. This acid is the same kind that the liver secretes to break up cholesterol in the bile. Over time, the acid is able to disintegrate gallstones. However, there are several limitations to this form of gallstone cure. It is only able to break down gallstones around 1cm to 1.5cm in diameter over a length of one or two years. Therefore, it is generally prescribed for individuals who have small gallstones, high cholesterol levels and are at high risk of developing serious complications from invasive surgery.
Serious gallstone complications may occur when a gallstone becomes lodged in a bile duct. These complications include chronic abdominal pain, yellowing of the eye whites and a high fever accompanied by chills. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.