Investigation – Gallstones

gallstones

I’ve always heard the word “gallstones” tossed around, but I never knew the true definition until recently in class. Reviewing chapter 11 on the digestive system and completing the case study has helped me to gain a better understanding; however, I am interested in learning more.

According to a New York Times article, there are two types of gallstones

1) gallstones made up cholesterol

2) pigment stones – made of bilirubin, a substance found in bile; this type may occur when red blood cells are being destroyed (hemolysis)

They may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.

Causes/Risk factors: Gallstones may form if the gallbladder does not empty the way it should or if people are overweight or trying to lose weight quickly. Other risk factors include association with bone marrow, diabetes, or liver cirrhosis. It is more common in women, Native Americans, Hispanics, and people over the age of 40.

Symptoms: Symptoms of gallstones are not likely but may include mild pain in the pit of the stomach or upper right part of the belly, fever and chills, or jaundice. When gallstones are blocking a bile duct, not only does is increase chances of high fever and chills, but it also increases one’s chances of obtaining a swollen pancreas.

Diagnosis: Similar to the process of questioning in the case study, a doctor may ask the following questions: “When did the pain start?” “Where is the pain?” “Is the pain sporadic or constant?” The doctor may also make use of an imaging test or request an ultrasound of the belly or gallbladder scan.

In most cases, gallstones cannot be prevented, but it is important to maintain a healthy weight and diet.

Sources:

The New York Times article: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/gallstones/

WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/tc/gallstones-topic-overview

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