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Symptoms of gallstones

The main symptom of gallstone is biliary cramp, which consists in an intense pain on the right side of the belly. In addition there may be loss of appetite, diarrhea and yellowing of the eyes and skin, for example.

It is important that the stone in the gallbladder be identified quickly by imaging and treatment started, which can be done with the use of drugs to dissolve stones or surgery, depending on the amount of stones you have and the frequency in which you form gallstones.

The main symptom of gallstone is biliary colic, which is a sudden and intense pain in the right side of the abdomen. Usually this pain arises about 30 minutes to 1 hour after a meal, but passes after digestion of the food ends, as the gallbladder no longer needed to release the bile.

So, if you think you may have gallstone, select your symptoms:

  1. 1. Strong pain on the right side of the belly up to 1 hour after eating
    Yes
    No
  2. 2. Fever above 38º C
    Yes
    No
  3. 3. Yellowing of the eyes or skin
    Yes
    No
  4. 4. Constant diarrhea
    Yes
    No
  5. 5. Nausea or vomiting, especially after meals
    Yes
    No
  6. 6. Loss of appetite
    Yes
    No
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Symptoms of gallstones

However, these symptoms happen in only a few cases and therefore it is possible to discover the stones in the gallbladder during routine exams, such as an abdominal ultrasound. People who have an increased risk of gallstone should make an appointment with a gastroenterologist to maintain the situation under vigilance and identify the problem as soon as it emerges.

The gallbladder is responsible for storing bile, a greenish liquid that helps with the digestion of fats. At the time of digestion, bile crosses the bile ducts and reaches the intestine, but the presence of gallstones may block this pathway, causing gall bladder inflammation and pain.

Sometimes the stones are small and can cross the bile ducts until they reach the intestine, where they are eliminated along with the feces.

What to do if you suspect you have a gallstone 

If you have the symptoms you should make an appointment with a general practitioner or gastroenterologist. If the pain is constant or if besides the pain you have a fever or are vomiting, you should go to the emergency room.

The diagnosis for gallstones is usually done by ultrasound. However, more specific test such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scintigraphy or computed tomography can be used to identify whether or not there is inflammation of the gallbladder.

What can cause gallstones

The stones that can develop in the gallbladder are formed by changes in bile composition, and some factors that can cause them are:

  • Diet rich in fats and simple carbohydrates, such as white bread and soft drinks;
  • Low fiber diet, like whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables;
  • Diabetes;
  • High cholesterol;
  • Lack of physical activity;
  • Hypertension;
  • Smoking;
  • Prolonged use of contraceptives:
  • Family history of people with gallstones.

Due to hormonal differences, women are at greater risk of having gallstones than men.

How to treat gallstones

The treatment for gallstones should always be guided by a gastroenterologist and is done according to the size of the stones and the presence or absence of symptoms. People with small stones or who do not present symptoms usually take medication to undo them, like Ursodeoxycholic acid tablets, but it can take years until the stones disappear.

On the other hand, people who have frequent symptoms are indicated for gallbladder removal surgery. There is also treatment with shock waves that break the gallstones into smaller ones, just as it is done in cases of kidney stones. The patient should also avoid a high fat diet, such as fried or red meat, and practice physical activity regularly. See more information about the treatment options for gallstones.

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