Gallstones, less commonly referred to as cholelithiasis, are the most common form of gallbladder disease. Primarily composed of cholesterol, stones disrupt the flow of bile from the liver through the gallbladder to the small intestine. Gallstones usually are not symptomatic. Patients frequently do not know they have gallstones unless they are discovered during an ultrasound or CT scan for an unrelated medical condition. If gallstones are not symptomatic, they typically do not require treatment. Once a patient does become symptomatic, the following treatments are recommended.
Eat a high-fiber diet that consists of healthy fats. A healthy high-fiber diet will include a variety of fruits and vegetables that may prevent the formation of additional gallstones. Healthy unsaturated fats from fish and nuts should also be included. People who do not consume sufficient calcium or anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E may have a higher risk of developing gallstones. Discuss the benefits of vitamin supplements with a medical professional before adding a supplement to your wellness routine. Obese and overweight people are also at an increased risk of developing gallstones. Work to achieve and maintain a healthy weight by reducing calories consumed and increasing physical activity.
If a gallstone has gotten lodged in one of the hepatic or common bile ducts, your doctor may recommend surgery to have the gallstone removed from the duct to avoid further complications.
Oral Dissolution Therapy
Oral medications are sometimes used to dissolve gallstones for patients who cannot undergo surgery. This treatment, however, may take months or years of treatment to dissolve gallstones. There is currently an experimental treatment in which similar medications are injected directly into the gallbladder to dissolve stones more quickly.
Extracorporeal Shock-Wave Lithotripsy
Extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is sometimes used to treat gallstones, especially ones that are lodged in bile ducts. This type of treatment generates shock waves that focus on the gallstone to shatter it. Once shattered, the smaller pieces of stone can drain into the small intestine on their own or may be removed through endoscopic surgery.
Gallbladder removal, also referred to as cholecystectomy, is frequently recommended since the gallbladder is a non-vital organ and gallstones typically recur. Once removed, bile flows from the liver directly into the small intestine, bypassing storage in your gallbladder. This does not affect digestion, but is known to cause diarrhea in some patients.