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Gallstones are best understood when there is a basic understanding of the function of the gallbladder itself, which is where the stones normally originate. In order to assist in the digestion of fats, the body uses a substance called bile. After it is produced in the liver, bile goes to the gallbladder where it is contained until the body has a use for it. Once the bile is needed, the gallbladder then, by way of contraction, forces the liquid substance (known as bile) into a tube/duct which delivers it to the small intestine where it serves its’ purpose in helping the body digest fats. After the removal of the gallbladder, the bile is transported directly from the liver to the appropriate ducts.

Gallstones form when the fluid bile takes on the form of stones when they are either still in the gallbladder or have been sent from the gallbladder into a duct. Among other things, bile contains cholesterol and one of the types of gallstones is classified as cholesterol stones. It is believed that when there is an excess of cholesterol or bilirubin in the bile or there are not ample bile salts this can explain the cause of this classification of stones to form. Other causes of the stones tend to be related to the sluggish flow of bile or actual diseased bile. These stones are classified as brown pigment gallstones. Black pigment stones are a third classification and are related to red blood cell destruction.

The increased likelihood of developing gallstones exists in those who are even somewhat above their ideal weight, use hormones for birth control or other medical conditions, are pregnant, are of native American or Mexican American descent., are fasting and/or experience sudden loss of weight, are a female between the ages of twenty and sixty, either sex over the age of sixty, are diabetic and, interestingly enough, those taking medication to lessen their levels of cholesterol because these drugs actually increase the quantity of cholesterol secreted into the bile.

A person with gallstones would be likely to experience nausea and vomiting, pain that occurs and intensifies in the upper or right part of the stomach and remains constant for a half of one hour to a number of hours. There may also be pain between the shoulder blades in the back and/or under the right shoulder. A bout with gallstones might be preceded by the consumption of food which is high in fat. The bout could cause sweating, chills, a fever that might be just slightly elevated and/or stools that are the color of clay.

These symptoms should be given proper and timely medical attention because the gallstones can become lodged in ducts. This can lead to serious infection as was all other complications and there is a possibility of fatality if not dealt with soon enough. A great deal of individuals who have gallstones have no symptoms and are therefore have what is termed as silent stones. They are often discovered when the individual is being assessed for other conditions. Analysis of gallstones is usually done with ultrasounds and blood work-ups.

Once diagnosed with gallstones, the patient has a variety of treatment options Gallstones that are not producing symptoms can usually be left in tack and monitored as long as the patient knows to report any symptoms that might develop at a later time, to the health care provider. If the gallstones must be removed then the treatment of choice is generally to surgically remove the gallbladder. Most patients can have this procedure accomplished by way of laparoscopic surgery which involves a smaller surgical cut and faster recovery time than traditional operations. There are still times when the gallbladder must be removed by traditional surgery, such as infection and scar tissue from prior surgeries. Gallbladder surgery is called cholecystectomy and yearly is performed on an excess of 500,000 patients in America.

Drug therapy can be used in the attempt to dissolve gallstones but is most effective when the stones are small in size. A significant amount of time might be needed for such therapy to be effective. Another option for dissolution of gallstones is the use of shock waves. The effectiveness of this procedure, termed lithotripsy, is still being evaluated. Once the shockwaves dissolve the stones, they still must pass through the bile ducts. This procedure commonly causes intense pain after it is done. According to The National Institutes of Health, as many as one in twelve individuals living in America have gallstones. Many Americans are not aware of the stones because they do not produce symptoms but in up to nearly one-fifth of these individuals develop symptoms and require diagnosis and treatment.