What are the different types of gallbladder stones?
Almost 80% of gallbladder stones cases are related to cholesterol stones. The two most common types of gallbladder stones are:
- Cholesterol Stones– These stones are the most common type of masses and have a yellow-green color.
- Pigment Stones– These stones are small and dark in color and composed of bilirubin that comes from the bile, a fluid that the liver makes and gallbladder stores.
Who is more at risk of developing gallbladder stones?
Gallstone is a problem that is related to the body’s ability to break down cholesterol. And there are many things that impact this ability, such as age, gender, weight, hormone imbalance, etc. The people who are more at risk of gallstones are:
- Women are more vulnerable than men
- People of age over 30
- Overweight or obesity
- People who lost weight suddenly or rapidly
- Pregnant women or women on hormone therapy
- Women on birth control pills
- People with a family history of gallstones or diabetes
- People with liver disease
What are the complications if gallbladder stones are left untreated?
Gallbladder stones may not cause any problem for a long time. But if the size of the stones keeps on increasing and they are left untreated, then you may experience the following complications.
- Recurrent and intense abdominal pain and frequent vomiting
- Jaundice if the common bile duct gets blocked
- Acute pancreatitis in which the pancreas start swelling and cause multi-organ failure that can be fatal
- Pus will start to form in the gallbladder
- Gangrene & perforation of the gallbladder
- Cholangitis which is a life-threatening biliary system infection
- May lead to cancer in the gallbladder
How to prepare for gallbladder removal surgery?
The preparation of gallbladder removal surgery doesn’t require extreme measures. Firstly, some pre-operative tests will be performed like blood tests, ECG, X-ray, ultrasound of the gallbladder. The surgeon will prescribe medications if necessary. And most probably, the surgeon will ask you to stop taking aspirin, warfarin, and other blood thinner medicines.
Benefits of laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery
Surgery is needed to remove gallstones from the gallbladder. It can be done via open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. However, the laparoscopic technique is preferred by people because it offers many benefits like:
- Patients experience less pain after the surgery
- It can be performed within 45 minutes to 1 hour
- Smaller incisions that minimize the risks of infection, excessive bleeding, etc.
- Faster recovery and allow the patient to return to normal activities quickly
- No major scars after surgery
- Minimal chances of recurrence
Apart from all this, when you choose Pristyn Care to undergo laparoscopic gallstone treatment, you get additional benefits like 30% discount on diagnostic tests, single deluxe room, 100% insurance claim, and free follow-ups after surgery.
What are the recovery tips after gallbladder stones surgery?
Even though laparoscopic gallstone treatment is a safe procedure, the patient must be careful during the recovery period. A small mistake can have unwanted consequences. Therefore, it is better that you pay attention to every aspect of your life after surgery. The post-surgery care involves:
- You will be under observation for 24 hours after the surgery so that the doctors can make sure your organs are functioning properly, i.e., there are no problems during urination or bowel.
- Start by taking oral liquids on the day of the surgery such as water, clear soups, tea, coffee, etc.
- The diet must involve fresh fruits, vegetables, and fibre-rich foods.
- The dressing used to cover up the incisions are usually waterproof. So, you can take a bath when you are comfortable without peeling off the dressing/bandages.
- Physical activities can be resumed after laparoscopic gallstone surgery very quickly. The patient is encouraged to move to increase the sense of well-being.
- Medications are prescribed after the surgery to minimize the pain.
How do gallstones form?
A gallstone is a stone that forms inside the gallbladder due to precipitated bile components. The presence of gallstones is called cholelithiasis. The common reasons for gallbladder stone formation are:
- Bile containing too much cholesterol
- Bile containing excessive bilirubin
In all these cases, the excess cholesterol and bilirubin may start to crystallize and eventually turn into stones. Besides the above-mentioned reasons, there are two other factors that impact gallstone formation. The first one is the frequency and ability of the gallbladder contractions. If the contractions are incomplete and infrequent, the bladder won’t empty properly and cause the bile to become over concentrated. The second factor is the presence of proteins in the liver and bile that either promote or inhibit gallstone formation.
Initially, the size of these stones is equal to a grain of sand. However, it can grow quickly and become as large as a golf ball. Moreover, the gallbladder may contain one or multiple stones of smaller or equal size.
What are the different types of gallbladder stones?
Gallbladder stones are divided into three different types based on their composition. These types are explained below:
- Cholesterol Stones- It is the most common type of gallstone. Around 35% to 90% of stones present in gallstones are cholesterol stones. They can be light yellow, dark green, brown, or chalk white in color and have an oval shape. Usually, their size is between 2 to 3 cm long, but they can also grow larger if left untreated for a long time.
- Pigment Stones- This type of gallstone is composed primarily of bilirubin, which is an insoluble bilirubin pigment polymer, and calcium (calcium phosphate) salts present in the bile. Around 2% to 30% of stones present in the gallbladder are bilirubin or pigment stones. They are small and often dark in color.
- Mixed Stones- Also known as brown pigment stones, they are composed of 20-80% of cholesterol. The rest of the constituents can be calcium carbonate, palmitate phosphate, bilirubin, and other bile pigments, such as calcium bilirubinate, calcium palmitate, and calcium stearate. These types of stones usually form when the biliary tract gets infected.
All these three types of stones can be present in the gallbladder altogether or alone. But in each scenario, you will need proper treatment for them.
Why should gallbladder stones not be left untreated?
When left untreated, gallbladder stones can turn into a serious medical issue. If you don’t take a proactive approach for your health and consult a doctor to remove the stones, it can cause the following complications:
- Inflammation of the gallbladder(Cholecystitis)- When the stone gets stuck in the bladder, it will cause inflammation, severe pain, and fever.
- Blockage of the common bile duct- When the stones enter the bile duct and get stuck there, it causes infection in the bile duct, jaundice, and severe pain as well.
- Blockage in the pancreatic duct- Pancreas is connected to the bile duct directly. Hence, there is a high possibility that the stones can travel to the pancreatic duct as well. If this happens, it will cause inflammation in the pancreas (also known as pancreatitis). Due to the inflammation, you will experience intense and constant pain in the abdomen and may need immediate hospitalization.
- Gallbladder cancer- Frequent occurrences of gallstones can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer as well. Though it is rare, it is better that you seek proper treatment to reduce the chances of gallbladder cancer.
Ignoring gallbladder stones is not advisable under any circumstances. You should consult a doctor and discuss what you can do to get rid of the stones permanently.
Prevention of Gallbladder Stones
It is mostly our lifestyle that increases the risk of gallbladder stone formation. Therefore, you can prevent gallstones by making the following changes in your daily life:
- Do not skip meals- Try your best to stick with the usual meal times each day. Skipping meals can cause excess bile secretion and deposition.
- Lose weight slowly- Being overweight is a risk factor for gallstone development. So, if you are trying to lose weight, take things slow. Don’t push your body to its limits in order to lose weight as rapid weight loss can cause the liver to secrete extra cholesterol, which can further increase the risk of gallstones.
- Eat high-fiber foods- Foods that are rich in fiber ensure that the levels of bad cholesterol in the body are minimal. Furthermore, fiber keeps the digestive system moving and helps to flush out the bile from the body. Therefore, it is crucial that you add more fiber to your diet.
- Exercise regularly- It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do an extensive workout, being physically active is enough. The less you move, the slower the digestion process will be. As a result, the bile won’t flush out correctly. Invest some time in exercising and leave the sedentary lifestyle behind.
- Take prescribed medications- People who are at high risk of developing gallstones due to heredity or other factors can take medicines to lower the risk of gallstone formation.
You can talk to a gallstone specialist to find out what else you can do to prevent gallstones.
Dietary Changes for Gallstones
The food items that you eat on a regular basis have a significant impact on the body. If you eat a healthy and balanced diet and combine it with physical activities, it can lower the risk of gallstone development to almost negligible.
According to experts, the ideal diet for gallstones consists of:
- Fiber-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Whole grains, including brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread, etc.
- Fewer refined carbohydrates and less sugar.
- Healthy fats, such as fish oil and olive oil that helps to contract the gallbladder.
Along with knowing what foods to eat, you should also keep your cravings in check and avoid unhealthy fats, such as desserts and fried foods. Talk to your healthcare provider and ask them to make changes in your diet that will help you avoid gallstones and other health problems as well.