Lumps of soild matter, found in the gall bladder (the sac underneath the liver, where the bile is located) or in the bile ducts (which connect to the liver and gall bladder in the duodenum). The majority of gall stones are made up from bile pigments from the breakdown of red blood cells and cholestral.
Causes and incidence
Gallstones arise due to a disruption in the chemical composition of bile. They are rarely seen in childhood, but become more common with age. Women are affected more than men. Risk factors for contracting gall stones are a high fat diet and being overweight.
The majority of symptoms show no symptoms. Any symptoms often start when a stone lodges itself in a gall bladder outlet. This problem cause biliary colic (extreme pain between the shoulder blades or the upper right area of the abdomen), indigestion and flatulence and sometimes nausea. Possible complications include bile duct obstruction, cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder) and, pancretitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis can be via x-ray oral cholecystography, ultrascound scanning, ERCP (an endoscopic x-ray procedure that can also be administered for treatment), or cholangiography. Stones that aren’t causing symptoms are often left alone. In other cases, it can be suitable to remove the stones during ERCP. Alternatively the stones may be destroyed using ultra sonic shock waves; the fragment pass into the intestine and then out of the body in the form of faeces. Certain gall stones can be dissolved slowly (over a few months) with drugs such as ursodeoxycholic acid; these drugs can also be admintersted after other types of treatment to stop more stones from forming. In certain cases it can be nessecary to surgically take out the gall bladder and stones, by cholecystectomy.