Could my abdominal pain be gallstones?
Le Le, MD, is a surgeon on staff at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center, 14502 W. Meeker Blvd., Sun City West. He can be reached at 623-975-8960.
Question: I have been having a lot of upper abdominal pain. Could I have gallstones?
Answer: Upper abdominal pain can be a symptom of gallstones, but it can also signal other conditions, so it is best to report your symptoms to your physician. But let's discuss gallstone development, symptoms and treatment.
The gallbladder, located behind the liver, is a small organ that stores bile. Bile helps the small intestine digest fats. This little sac can develop stones and become inflamed, or can be prone to other problems, including the inability to function well (chronic acalculous gallbladder disease); or it can develop abscesses, polyps or tumors.
Gallstones come in two varieties, those made from cholesterol (the most common) and those that are from too much bilirubin in the bile. While it is thought that gallstones are always symptomatic, this is not true. According to the National Institutes of Health's Library of Medicine, most gallstones cause no symptoms at all and are often found when someone is undergoing a routine X-ray, abdominal surgery or another medical procedure. If the stone obstructs the bile duct, there will often be a cramping pain in the upper right abdomen.
Family history, gender (women appear to be more prone to gallstones than men), being even moderately overweight, eating a high-in- fat/cholesterol and low-in-fiber diet, or rapid weight loss can all contribute to the formation of gallstones. As you can see, other than gender and family history, lifestyle changes such as controlling your weight and eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet can help prevent gallstones.
If your physician suspects that gallstones might be causing your symptoms, tests will be made to determine their presence. The most common test is an abdominal ultrasound. If gallbladder removal is needed, it will likely be laparoscopic. The entire gallbladder is removed using four small incisions and a camera. The good news is that people can live without a gallbladder.