Q 1. What are gall stones?
Gall stones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid (bile) present in the gall bladder. It’s a very common condition affecting 10-20% of the general population in India.
Q 2. What are the causes of gall stone formation?
If the bile in gall bladder has excess cholesterol which cannot be dissolved by enzymes, it precipitates to form stones. Also if bile has too much bilirubin, like in cirrhosis of the liver or some blood disorders it contributes to stone formation. Lastly, if gall bladder does not empty well, leads to stagnation and stone formation.
Q 3. Are there any risk factors of stone formation?
Gall stones are seen as more common in females over the age of 40. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, a diet rich in fat and poor in fibre, diabetes and family history of gall stones are some of the common risk factors.
Q 4. What are the symptoms of gall stones?
Gall bladder stones may not cause any symptoms at all where it is referred to as silent or incidentally detected stones. Otherwise common symptoms are pain in the right side of the abdomen, beneath the rib cage. This pain could be severe and may radiate to the back or right shoulder. The patient also experiences heaviness in the abdomen and nausea and vomiting which gets worsened by having a meal. If the stone slips into the bile duct can lead to jaundice or high fever.
Q 5. Who needs treatment for gall stones?
Not everyone having a stone deserves treatment. Silent stone may be kept under close observation. All other patients who have experienced symptoms pertaining to gall stone (Pain, fever, jaundice, pancreatitis) should seek medical advice. Persons with gall stones and a history of gall bladder cancer in the family also require treatment.
Q 6. What is the treatment of gall stones?
Gall stones are usually treated by surgery in which gall bladder is removed from the body (Cholecystectomy). This is a laparoscopic or keyhole surgery wherein the whole procedure is performed via tiny holes in the abdomen. The other form of treatment directed at dissolving the gall stones is usually not effective.
Q 7. Can the risk of forming gall stones be reduced?
Yes!! Maintaining a healthy weight is the surest form of reducing gall stone formation. Regular exercise and low calorie diet help to keep stones away. Avoid skipping meals as this increases the chances of stone formation. Also, people who are intending to lose weight should not do it very rapidly, aim to lose 500 mg to 1 kg weight/week.