What are Gallstones?
The gallbladder is a small organ situated below the liver which stores and concentrates bile. Gallstones are small stones, normally made of cholesterol, that form in the gall bladder. When gallstones become trapped in a duct they can irritate and inflame the gall bladder.
There are three main types of gallstones. Asymptomatic gallstones are present in the gallbladder but do not cause any symptoms. Uncomplicated gallstone disease occurs when gallstones block the opening to the bile duct. Complicated gallstone disease occurs when the gallstones have inflamed the gallbladder.
How common are Gallstones?
Gallstones are common, and around 10 to 15% of the population in England suffer from them, although most cases are asymptomatic.
Around 1 to 4% of people develop uncomplicated or complicated gallstone disease in a year. Older people, women, and overweight people are more susceptible to the condition.
What are the symptoms of Gallstones?
Biliary colic is a common symptom of gallstones, which is a sudden intense pain that can last up to 8 hours usually brought on by eating fatty foods.
Sufferers of gallstones may also experience nausea, vomiting and excessive sweating. Complications can arise from complicated gallstone disease, including acute cholecystitis, acute cholangitis and acute pancreatitis.
How are Gallstones treated?
Gallstones with no symptoms will need to be monitored for any worsening symptoms. Mild sufferers will be treated with painkillers to control episodes of binary colic. Whenever possible, surgery is recommended for all cases of complicated gallstone disease.
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