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Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that develop in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac located below your liver in the right upper abdomen. Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. The liquid called bile helps the body digest fats. Bile is made in the liver, then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs it. The gallbladder contracts and pushes the bile into a tube called the common bile duct that carries it to the small intestine, where it helps with digestion.
Bile contains water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, proteins, and bilirubin a waste product. Bile salts break up fat, and bilirubin gives bile and stool a yellowish-brown color. If the liquid bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, it can harden into gallstones.
Types of gallstones:
The two types of gallstones are cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones are usually yellow-green and are made primarily of hardened cholesterol. They account for about 80 percent of gallstones. Pigment stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder can develop just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones,
Gallstones can block the normal flow of bile if they move from the gallbladder and lodge in any of the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine. The ducts include the
Hepatic ducts, which carry bile out of the liver
Cystic duct, which takes bile to and from the gallbladder
Common bile duct, which takes bile from the cystic and hepatic ducts to the small intestine
Bile trapped in these ducts can cause inflammation in the gallbladder, the ducts, or in rare cases, the liver. Other ducts open into the common bile duct, including the pancreatic duct, which carries digestive enzymes out of the pancreas. Sometimes gallstones passing through the common bile duct provoke inflammation in the pancreas called gallstone pancreatitis an extremely painful and potentially dangerous condition.
If any of the bile ducts remain blocked for a significant period of time, severe damage or infection can occur in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas. Left untreated, the condition can be fatal. Warning signs of a serious problem are fever, jaundice, and persistent pain.
Scientists believe cholesterol stones form when bile contains too much cholesterol, too much bilirubin, or not enough bile salts, or when the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough. The reason these imbalances occur is not known.
The cause of pigment stones is not fully understood. The stones tend to develop in people who have liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, or hereditary blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia in which the liver makes too much bilirubin.
The mere presence of gallstones may cause more gallstones to develop. Other factors that contribute to the formation of gallstones, particularly cholesterol stones, include
Sex. Women are twice as likely as men to develop gallstones. Excess estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, and birth control pills appears to increase cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement, which can lead to gallstones.
Family history. Gallstones often run in families, pointing to a possible genetic link.
Weight. A large clinical study showed that being even moderately overweight increases the risk for developing gallstones. The most likely reason is that the amount of bile salts in bile is reduced, resulting in more cholesterol. Increased cholesterol reduces gallbladder emptying. Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones, especially in women.
Diet. Diets high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber increase the risk of gallstones due to increased cholesterol in the bile and reduced gallbladder emptying.
Rapid weight loss. As the body metabolizes fat during prolonged fasting and rapid weight loss such as crash diets the liver secretes extra cholesterol into bile, which can cause gallstones. In addition, the gallbladder does not empty properly.
Age. People older than age 60 are more likely to develop gallstones than younger people. As people age, the body tends to secrete more cholesterol into bile.
Ethnicity. American indians have a genetic predisposition to secrete high levels of cholesterol in bile. In fact, they have the highest rate of gallstones in the united states. The majority of american indian men have gallstones by age 60. Among the pima indians of arizona, 70 percent of women have gallstones by age 30. Mexican american men and women of all ages also have high rates of gallstones.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs. Drugs that lower cholesterol levels in the blood actually increase the amount of cholesterol secreted into bile. In turn, the risk of gallstones increases.
Diabetes. People with diabetes generally have high levels of fatty acids called triglycerides. These fatty acids may increase the risk of gallstones.
Symptoms of gallstones:
As gallstones move into the bile ducts and create blockage, pressure increases in the gallbladder and one or more symptoms may occur. Symptoms of blocked bile ducts are often called a gallbladder attack because they occur suddenly. Gallbladder attacks often follow fatty meals, and they may occur during the night. A typical attack can cause
Steady pain in the right upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours
Pain in the back between the shoulder blades
Pain under the right shoulder
Notify your doctor if you think you have experienced a gallbladder attack. Although these attacks often pass as gallstones move, your gallbladder can become infected and rupture if a blockage remains.
People with any of the following symptoms should see a doctor immediately:
Prolonged pain more than 5 hours
Nausea and vomiting
Fever even low-grade or chills
Yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes
Many people with gallstones have no symptoms; these gallstones are called silent stones. they do not interfere with gallbladder, liver, or pancreas function and do not need treatment.
This homeopathic remedy may be indicated when the individual experiences stitching pains radiating from the area of the gallbladder in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen to the stomach, shoulder and even into the kidneys, according to the university of michigan health system. Sharp pains may be felt in the low back and standing makes them worse.
Lycopodium may be indicated when the pains start in the right side of the abdomen and move to the left side, according to the" synoptic materia medica" the pains may be accompanied by loud belching, gas, rumbling in the stomach and abdomen, nausea and vomiting. Additional indications for taking this remedy are the desire for very warm food and drinks, which make the pains feel better during eating and drinking; or from waking in the nighttime with burning pains in the chest extending to the throat.
Colocynthis is indicated in cases of gallstone colic when there is a great deal of cramping in the abdomen, which is made better by firm pressure or when the person bends forward, according to Dr. William boericke in the" materia medica and repertory" other indications pointing to this remedy are when the gallstone colic onset occurs during or after the person has been very angry
When a person needing this remedy has gallbladder problems, the abdomen may feel swollen on the right and be very sensitive to pressure, with cutting pains that extend to the chest and are worse from stooping, the person feels worse from standing, worse from exertion, and better from lying on the painful side. Calcarea carbonica is often indicated for people who tire easily, feel cold and sluggish with clammy hands and feet, crave sweets, and tend to feel anxious and overwhelmed when ill.
This remedy is often indicated when pain extends to the back, right shoulder, and shoulder-blade. The abdomen is distended, with a constricting feeling as if a string were pulled across it. Pain is worse from motion, and lying on the left with the legs drawn up may help. The person may feel nauseous, especially after eating fat or drinking something cold (warm drinks stay down more easily). The person may feel tired, worse from being cold, and worse in the early morning.
This remedy is indicated when abdominal pain from gallstones is relieved by bending backward, and is worse when the person is bending forward or lying flat. Standing up and moving around in open air can also bring improvement. Pains can spread to the back, chest, and arms, or may shift around. The person tends to feel worse in the evening and at night, and also when lying down.
Constricting pains that travel upward, stitching pains, and a swollen feeling in the upper right part of the abdomen suggest a need for this remedy. Digestive cramps and nausea, along with a general feeling of chilliness, are likely. The person may crave fats, strong spicy foods, alcohol, coffee and other stimulants, and feel worse from having them. Irritability and impatience are usually pronounced when this remedy is needed.
This remedy is sometimes indicated in liver and gallbladder problems when soreness is felt in the upper right part of the abdomen along with a feeling of weakness, sinking, or emptiness. Heat may also be felt in the area. Constipation with clay-colored stools that are dry and hard to pass may alternate with watery diarrhea.