Gall Stones—Cause, Composition and Treatment
Gall stones are known in medicine as
choleliths. They cause irritation and inflammation of the gall bladder
and if numerous stones are present, they may lead to porcelain gall bladder, which may be a risk factor for gall
bladder cancer, although the evidence of that is contradictory.
A stone can vary in size. It may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. It can be present without causing any pain or other symptoms. It could also cause a great deal of pain and lead to infection.
Nausea, vomiting and fever are sometimes present,
although the most common symptom is pain in the upper quadrant of the right abdominal area, just below or
underneath the rib cage. Pain sometimes radiates into the upper hip,
back or shoulder.
The content or composition of gall stones varies,
although cholesterol is always present, to some extent. If 70-80% of
the stone is composed of cholesterol, it is classified as a cholesterol stone. It is usually green, but may be white or yellow in color.
A pigment stone is another type that is dark in
color and composed mainly of bilirubin and calcium salts. Less than
20% of the composition of the dark stone is cholesterol.
There are specific risk factors for these, rarer
types of gall stone. Those include:
• Bilary tract infections
• Sickle cell anemia
• Other inherited
In some cases, the high calcium content allows
the stone to be viewed by X-ray. A doctor may order an ultrasound to
view the size and shape of the stone. The first examination is
typically a physical one. The diagnosis is made because of the
patient’s symptoms and a test called Murphy’s sign.
Inflammation of the gall bladder is referred to
as cholecystitis. Although it is usually caused by gall stones, it can
occur in patients that are debilitated or suffering from a trauma.
Murphy’s sign is often used to diagnose
cholecystitis and is usually very accurate. It’s a simple test, in
which the patient is instructed to exhale and inhale while the doctor presses on the gall
bladder. If inflammation of the organ is present, the patient will
suddenly stop inhaling, because of the pain.
Other symptoms that may accompany the condition
include bloating, belching, gas and indigestion. If yellowing of the
skin, chills, low-grade fever or a clay-colored stool are noted, a doctor should be consulted
Gall stones may require no treatment, the use of
ultrasonic shock waves to break them up or removal of the gall bladder. Changes in diet and herbal remedies may be helpful, too.