The “apdo” or the gallbladder is a hollow, pear-shaped organ on the right side of our abdomen. Internally, you can find it under the liver. It functions as a storage for bile, which is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Bile helps us digest food primarily because it breaks down fats into smaller fatty acids.
Gallstones: An Overview
At this point, you must be wondering: what are gallbladder stones and how do they develop?
First, gallstones are stone-like objects found either in the gallbladder or in the bile ducts – a network of pipes in the liver. These stone-like objects are made up of hardened substances, commonly cholesterol or bilirubin. To explain further, let’s differentiate the two:
- Cholesterol stones. They are often yellow-greenish in color. Cholesterol is a waxy substance made up of fats that are commonly found in the blood and body cells. Gallstones made with cholesterol are more common than pigment stones.
- Bilirubin stones. Also called pigment stones, bilirubin stones are made from the breakdown of red blood cells in the liver. Aside from turning into stones, too much bilirubin can also leak into the bloodstream. When this happens, a person may develop jaundice or the yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Causes of Gallstone Formation
The signs and symptoms of gallbladder stones might depend on what caused it. The common cause of gallstone formation includes:
- A lazy gallbladder. Sometimes the gallbladder doesn’t empty itself, triggering the development of stones.
- Liver diseases; one example is liver cirrhosis
- Blood disorders, like leukemia or sickle cell anemia
- Rapid loss of weight
- There is a high level of bilirubin and cholesterol in the bile
Before we proceed to the discussion about the signs and symptoms of gallbladder stones, please take note of the following points about the gallstone size:
- Gallstones vary in size. Some can be as small as grains of sand, while others are as huge as golf balls. The gallbladder may have one huge stone or a hundred small ones. At times, there is a mixture of big and small stones.
- The smaller stones are often more dangerous. Bigger stones that sit quietly in the gallbladder often do not cause symptoms. However, smaller stones can move out of the gallbladder and get stuck on the bile ducts, causing more harm. If the smaller stones block the common bile duct, it can cause an infection called cholangitis. Additionally, it can also result in pancreatitis or the inflammation of the pancreas.
The Signs and Symptoms of Gallbladder Stones
A lot of people may have gallstones and not be bothered by them. However, if the stones cause blockage in the bile ducts, you may be symptomatic. The following are the most common signs and symptoms of gallbladder stones.