The gall bladder is responsible for making and storing bile, then releasing it into the small intestine to facilitate digestion. In some people, gallstones can form inside the gall bladder. These “stones” are made from calcium, cholesterol, bilirubin and other substances, ranging in size from a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. If you are diagnosed with gallstones you may wonder whether or not you need treatment.
Symptoms of Gallstones
Many people are unaware they have gallstones until they have an x-ray or ultrasound that shows their existence in the gall bladder. Gallstones typically do not cause symptoms until they begin to move. When gallstones travel through the bile duct into the small intestine it can cause discomfort. There can be pain in the upper right abdomen or under the shoulder blade. Some people have nausea, vomiting, sweating/fever and slight jaundice caused by gallstones.
What Do Gallstones Need Treatment?
Most small gallstones can pass through the body without treatment. However, larger gallstones may become lodged in the bile duct and cause blockages. If someone is experiencing ongoing pain or infections caused by gallstones, they should see a gastroenterologist. In some cases, medication can be used to breakdown gallstones. Most commonly, the gall bladder is removed when the gallstones are causing health problems. This surgery can be performed laparoscopically through small incisions, removing the gall bladder and gallstones. You can maintain health without a gall bladder – bile will come directly from the liver for digestion.
If you have been diagnosed with gallstones or have symptoms of gallstone problems, contact a local gastroenterologist to discuss whether or not you need treatment. If your gall bladder needs to be removed, it can often be performed during a minimally-invasive surgery with limited downtime required.
Posted on behalf of:
Dr. David P. Yamini, MD
Westside Gastro Care
2001 Santa Monica Blvd #1286
Santa Monica, CA 90404