Several people have asked recently about gallstones, mostly whether or not to have surgery. Gallstones are small hard solids formed in the gallbladder of cholesterol, bilirubin, and other waste products. They can cause severe symptoms or none, and the preferred treatment is surgery. Risk factors include being female, being overweight, losing a lot of weight quickly, and certain medications. This can also cause gallbladder disease which can be life-threatening as it blocks digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
Symptoms include pain in right upper abdomen that starts about 30 minutes after a fatty meal, this can last up to 5 hours. The pain is usually severe, dull, and constant. Other symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, fever, indigestion, bloating, jaundice, and intolerance for high-fat foods.
Measures to take at home include intake of only clear liquids to give the gallbladder a rest, acetaminophen, and resting after meals.
There is a “gallbladder cleanse” or flush that includes olive oil, herbs, and clear liquids. Proponents state this can work, doctors say no, for people suffering it can be worth a shot but keep in mind you may still need medical care. There are several recipes for this available online.
There is a ‘shock-wave’ treatment that can break the stones so that they are able to pass through ducts on their own, this is not always effective.
The most common surgical procedure is referred to as a ‘lap chole’ and involves 2 small slits on either side of the gallbladder, a laser probe goes in and breaks up the stones and removes them with a small device doctors call a ‘cherry-picker.’ This usually involves an overnight stay but often is performed as same day surgery.
If there are no symptoms there is usually no treatment. Vomiting with other symptoms requires immediate medical attention.