Gallstones

The gallbladder acts as a storage facility for bile.  Whenever you are not eating, the liver continues to produce bile and this bile is then stored in the gallbladder.  When you have a meal, the gallbladder then contracts to squirt out extra bile to help you digest particularly the fatty components of your meal.

Gallstones are stones which form within the gallbladder due to various components of bile crystallising out.  Risk factors for developing gallstones include being female, recent pregnancy, the oral contraceptive pill, obesity, rapid weight loss and increasing age.

The majority of people with gallstones will not have any system and certainly gallstones discovered incidentally during an ultrasound for some other condition do not need to be removed.  When gallstones cause problems, typically you experience abdominal pain, usually in the right upper abdomen.  This pain often goes through into the back or into the shoulder.  It is frequently associated with nausea and occasionally vomiting.  Eating may precipitate the pain.  Episodes of pain are called biliary colic and when this pain is associated with a temperature and infection it is called acute cholecystitis.

Once you start having symptoms from your gallstones, they are unlikely to disappear completely and the more attacks you have, the more technically difficult surgery may become.  Therefore people who are having symptoms from their gallbladder are generally recommended to have the gallbladder removed.  This is done with keyhole surgery and is known as the laparoscopic-cholecystectomy

Following removal of your gallbladder, you will generally not notice any change in gut function, nor are you required to alter your diet.

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