Gallstones: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Bladder Problems

The gallbladder is an organ of the digestive system. Here's a quick guide to the gallbladder, its function, and the disorders that can affect it.

Gallstones: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Bladder Problems
Gallstones: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Bladder Problems

What Does The Gallbladder Do?

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The gall bladder is an organ of the digestive system whose function is to store and concentrate the bile produced by the liver, before discharging it into the intestines at the time of digestion. Bile is a liquid composed of mucous, bile pigments, bile salts, cholesterol and mineral salts, intended to aid digestion.

The gallbladder is located near the liver, in the abdomen and is pear-shaped, about 8 centimetres in length and 4 centimetres in diameter.

Gallstones: Symptoms And Treatment

It is common to find gallstones. Gallstones are crystal-like masses that form when the bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts or bilirubin, the pigment in the bile. The number, size and shape of gallstones may vary. They can be similar to grains of sand or be up to the size of a golf ball. Similarly, the symptoms will vary from person to person. In most cases, gallstones are "silent", that is, they do not cause any pain and are detected by chance during an ultrasound. In this case, they usually do not require treatment, just careful monitoring of the diet.

However, in some cases, gallstones can also lead to painful seizures. They can obstruct the ducts bringing the bile from the bladder to the liver. As the gallbladder can no longer empty, it swells up and can cause extreme pain. In this case, medications are usually prescribed to relieve the symptoms and an operation may be considered. This operation will consist of removing the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). The act can be performed by laparotomy (by opening of the abdomen) or laparoscopy (without opening the abdominal wall). This technique eliminates the risk of recurrence and complications.

Gallbladder And Cancer

The gallbladder may be affected by cancer but these cases are relatively rare compared to other digestive cancers. Around 800 people per year are diagnosed with gallbladder cancer in the UK. It affects 2 to 3 times more women than men and usually occurs in patients over 65 years old.

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