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What is the best way to deal with gallstones?

By June 10, 2010 - 2:48pm
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I have digestive problems and my doctor has ordered an ultrasound exam to check for gallstones. She said they can be removed surgically but she recommended not removing them if possible. This has led to a lot of questions for me, and I hope you can help.

What are gallstones and what causes them? If they are removed surgically what kind of procedure is involved? Is there a natural way to remove them? Is there a way to live with them? Are there risks in not removing them? I would appreciate any help anyone can provide.

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Thank you Alison for your fast and thorough response. I will know more after the ultrasound exam, but in the meantime this is very helpful. I appreciate your help.

June 11, 2010 - 8:07pm

You can read more about gallstones just by clicking on the word (it is hyperlinked), but I am happy to answer your questions, and then feel free to ask more detailed questions!

From EmpowHER Conditions: Gallstones:
1. What are gallstones, and what causes them?
Gallstones are pieces of stone-like material that form in the gallbladder. The majority of gallstones are made up of cholesterol. The rest are made up of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a breakdown pigment of the blood product hemoglobin.

Biliary colic is the pain caused by a gallstone stuck in the bile duct, a tube that carries bile to the small intestine. Sometimes, a stone caught in the bile duct causes cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). Cholangitis is inflammation of the bile duct caused by a gallstone or a bacterial infection.

The gallbladder stores bile. This fluid is produced in the liver and used in the small intestine to digest fat. Bile contains cholesterol, water, bilirubin, and bile salts.

Gallstones can form (are "caused by") under the following conditions:
* Too much absorption of bile salts from the bile
* Too much absorption of water from the bile
* Too much cholesterol in the bile
* Inflammation of the lining of the gallbladder

2. How are they surgically removed?
Surgical Treatments
Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the removal of the gallbladder through several small incisions in the abdomen. To view the gallbladder, a small, lighted tube with a camera is inserted into one of the incisions. Surgical instruments are used to remove the gallbladder through one of the other incisions.
Open Cholecystectomy

Open cholecystectomy is the removal of the gallbladder through a large incision in the abdomen. This is necessary if there is an infection in the abdomen or a great deal of scar tissue.

3. Is there a natural way to remove them?
Nonsurgical treatments:
Your doctor may give you medication to dissolve small stones. It may take months or years for the medication to dissolve all of the stones.

4. Is there a way to live with them?
If you are asymptomatic (no symptoms), you may not need treatment (called "silent gallstones"). Many times, gallstones cause pain (sometimes severe), or other unpleasant symptoms and you would need them to be treated. You can also try preventative/lifestyle changes including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a diet low in saturated fat.

5. Are there risks in not removing them?
Depends on many factors; I think this post has some great information to answer your question: EmpowHER: How do women pass gallstones?

Please let us know what additional information you need! You can also find other women on EmpowHER who have undergone treatment for gallstones and have written about their experience by clicking on the word "gallstone" in this post.

June 10, 2010 - 8:42pm
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