Gallstones are small pebble-like materials, usually made of bilirubin or cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. Gallstones can range in size from a few millimeters to a centimeter or larger (about the size of a golf ball). They can be made of cholesterol or calcium salts, or both. Although most gallstones aren’t life-threatening, they can cause serious problems for a patient if they block the ducts leading from the gallbladder and into the intestines or cause inflammation in the gallbladder.
The exact cause of gallstones is not completely understood, but it is believed to be a result of increased bile production by the liver that is blocked from reaching the small intestine as it normally does. This can lead to blockages in the gallbladder and the common bile duct.
In addition to their wide variety of symptoms, gallstones are also known for causing acute attacks (painful episodes) and chronic disease, making them a major cause of visits to emergency departments and hospitals. According to a study conducted by The National Health Care Surveys, approximately 4 million people are admitted into hospitals each year because of gallstone-related issues.
Gallstones can cause pain, especially in the upper right side of the abdomen, on the back between the shoulder blades, or in and around the navel. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, fever and chills, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), itching around the eyes and mouth, and clay-colored bowel movements. Women may also have pain during menstruation.
Let’s dive deep into the topic to understand the symptoms of gallstones.