The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that stores the bile made by your liver. Bile aids in digestion, especially fatty foods.
Gallstones form in the gallbladder when the stored bile crystallizes. Usually, these stones are small and asymptomatic. Gallstones affect about 10-15% of people in the United States, but not everyone needs treatment.
If you have gallstones that are causing you pain and recurrent attacks, the advanced surgery team at Lakeland Surgical Clinic, PLLC, in Jackson, Mississippi, offers solutions.
Here are the recommendations if you have gallstones that need treatment.
Why are gallstones a problem?
If you have gallstones discovered during an ultrasound or CT scan for some other reason, you probably don’t have to take any action. Gallstones aren’t a problem unless they block or obstruct a bile duct.
When a gallstone attack happens because a stone tries to pass through a bile duct or obstructs it, you’ll experience significant pain. Usually, you’ll notice the sharp, knife-like pain in the upper right or middle abdomen, just below the rib cage. The pain builds over an hour and persists for several hours.
The pain can also feel like a dull ache that radiates to the back or right shoulder. You may even feel nauseous and vomit.
If a stone becomes lodged in a duct, you may experience inflammation of the gallbladder, pancreas, or bile ducts. You may run a high fever, experience severe pain, and have chills as a result. Jaundice and vomiting are also symptoms.
What if I’m experiencing a gallstone attack?
If you suspect a gallstone attack, contact our office right away. We’ll run blood tests and perform an ultrasound of your stomach to look for abnormal tissue. Other diagnostic tests detect blockages in ducts.
How do you treat gallstones?
If you’re having symptoms of a gallbladder attack or have recurrent attacks, it may be best to remove the gallbladder. Our surgeons perform gallbladder surgery laparoscopically, using tiny incisions, a mini camera, and small instruments. You recover quickly and spend just one overnight in the hospital and a week of downtime at home.
Living without a gallbladder is possible. You may need to reduce the amount of fat in your diet. Loose stools can also result, but that can be resolved with a bile acid-binding medication.
For people who can’t or don’t want surgery, you can take an oral version of a naturally occurring bile acid that helps dissolve cholesterol stones. The medication must be taken by mouth two to four times a day.
Drug therapy can be combined with lithotripsy, which uses sound waves to break gallstones into pieces that dissolve more easily or are small enough to safely pass through the bile duct.
If you are prone to gallstones, they’re likely to recur even with medication treatments.
If you have gallstones, reach out to the expert team at Lakeland Surgical Clinic, PLLC. The friendly staff can help you set up an appointment today.