Gallstones are regrettably common, and they can be absolutely agonizing. Fortunately, they are fairly easy to treat once we find them. That is why we believe that everyone should know how to recognize them so they can seek treatment.
It is possible to have gallstones without experiencing any symptoms. Most people will get their symptoms when a gallstone gets stuck and blocks one of the body’s ducts. There are several symptoms that can occur at that point.
- Sudden and extreme pain in the upper right-hand side of the torso
- Sudden bouts of pain below the breastbone
- Pain in the right shoulder or in the back between the shoulder blades
None of these symptoms are unique to gallstones, so it is still important to get in touch with a doctor to diagnose the proper medical condition. Imaging techniques can confirm the diagnosis by detecting the stone, while blood tests point us in the right direction by revealing more subtle symptoms.
What Caused Them?
Researchers have not found the precise reason why gallstones form, but they do believe that it is probably due to an accumulation of excess bile that has a chemical imbalance. Fortunately, they have discovered a variety of factors that make gallstones more likely to form. We can use that knowledge to determine which people are at risk of developing them and to try to prevent it.
Some factors are beyond our control. Women are more likely to develop gallstones than men, while people of Native American and Mexican descent are more likely to develop them than other races. Age and family history also affect your chances of being at risk. People who are at a higher risk should make a special effort to watch out for signs of trouble.
That having been said, we can try to prevent gallstones by managing factors that are in our control. People whose diets are high in fat or cholesterol, or low in fiber, are more likely to have gallstones. People who are overweight tend to get gallstones, as do people who lose weight too quickly. A general lack of exercise can make it easier for gallstones to form. Making necessary lifestyle changes can drastically decrease your risk.
Prevention is ideal, but not a guarantee. Some people will still develop gallstones in their lifetime regardless if they live a healthy lifestyle. We encourage people who suffer from them to seek treatment right away.
There are a couple of treatment options available. We often rely on a surgical approach that removes the entire gallbladder. That may sound extreme, but we do it because gallstones often come back over time. People can live without their gallbladder, so the treatment is not nearly as drastic as it may seem. This isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it is for many people.
Medication is also an option. We can use them to dissolve the gallstones while leaving the gallbladder in place. The problem is that it takes a long time, and the stones will often come back if anything disrupts the treatment. While it’s an effective option, it isn’t a great fit for people that need quick relief.
The only way to distinguish the right treatment option is to get in touch with a doctor. There are a lot of factors to consider, and a full evaluation should be performed by a medical professional to get you the proper care that you need.