Healthy Living

What To Do If You Think You Have Gallstones

What To Do If You Think You Have Gallstones

Key Takeaways

  • Complications caused by gallstones
  • What specialist should you call if you have gallstones?
  • Guide questions and suggestions when consulting with your doctor 
  • Diagnosis and treatment of gallstones

If you are 60 and above or have heart disease, abdominal pain can be a serious problem to your health. You need to seek immediate medical attention if you experience sudden or intense pain with unknown cause. If you lose consciousness or have a hard time breathing, you should be concerned and cautious.

You need to call a doctor if:

-  You have fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

-  Continuous intense pain especially one caused by gallstones

-  You are diabetic and experiencing gallstones symptoms

-  Your skin and white part of the eye turns yellow and you feel pain on upper side of the abdomen

-  Release light-colored stools and brown or dark yellow urine

-  Your immune system is impaired and you have gallstones symptoms

You may still need to see a doctor to evaluate your situation as a precaution in case you have signs of gallstones but no chills, jaundice, or fever. Seeing your doctor will avoid further problems that can be caused by gallstones.

The complications caused by gallstones includes:

Inflammation of the gallbladder: the gallstones block the neck of the gallbladder. This causes inflammation and the patient experiences severe pain and fever.

Blockage of the bile duct: the gallstones block the tubes that carry bile from the gallbladder or the liver to the small intestine. Patient experiences fever and jaundice.

Blockage of the pancreatic duct: the pancreatic duct that runs into the bile duct are blocked causing inflammation of the pancreas. The duct carries pancreatic juice required for digestion in the bile duct. The gallstone causes inflammation of the pancreas, and constant abdominal pain is observed. 

Gallbladder cancer: patients with a history of gallstone have increased the risk of gallbladder cancer. Gallbladder cancer is very rare.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is the period in which you are watching your symptoms so that your doctor can determine if you need treatment or not. Doctors always apply the watchful waiting method as the first approach towards the treatment of gallstones.

What specialist should you call?

One of the following medical professionals can evaluate the signs and symptoms of gallstones:

-  Gastroenterologist

-  A surgeon

-  Family doctor

-  General practitioner

-  Physician

-  Nurse practitioner

The first thing you need to do if worrying symptoms and signs of gallstones appear is to see a general practitioner or your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a digestive system specialist (gastroenterologist) or to a surgeon. 

Since there’s always a lot of info to be covered in a short time during appointments, it’s recommended that you do thorough preparations prior to seeing a practitioner. Below are some tips to help you get prepared.

    • Ensure that you know the pre-appointment limitations. When you make an appointment, make sure you inquire about everything you need to do prior to the appointment day. This includes the change of diet.

    • Jot down all your signs and symptoms. Also, note down unrelated issues that affect you.

    • Note down your personal info including major events and recent changes.

    • List down any medications that you are taking, be it supplements or vitamins – it’s important.

    • To help you understand the info issued at the appointment even much better take a trusted friend or family member along. The other person may be able to recall something that you forgot or understand better than you. 

 

Questions you may need to ask your doctor

Making a list of a few important questions saves time in diagnosis and treatment. Arrange them depending on their importance. Here are a few questions you can list down for your gallstones appointment.

    • Is the pain in my abdomen caused by gallstones?

    • What other issues may be causing my symptoms?

    • Do I need to do other tests?

    • Is there a possibility that the gallstones will disappear without medication?

    • Is it a must that my gallbladder be removed?

    • Does the surgery of gallbladder removal cause other complications?

    • What’s the recovery period after a gallbladder surgery?

    • What are the other options for treating gallstones?

    • What’s the cost of seeing a specialist and do I need to see one?

    • How can I manage my other health conditions?

    • Do you have other materials I can get information from?

You may get lots of questions from your medical professional. To give you enough time to answer all of them and be able to ask other unrelated questions, it’s wise to be ready and well prepared. 

    • The appointment is for a limited time; simple preparations make the best of your time. The doctors are also able to diagnose the problem easily.

    • What to anticipate from the doctor.

    • If your doctor suspects gallstone, he may ask few questions.

    • How long have you been experiencing the symptoms?

    • Do you have regular fever?

    • Are the symptoms associated with eating pattern?

    • How occasional are the symptoms?

    • How long do they last?

    • How often do you experience them?

    • What improves the symptoms?

    • What worsen them?

Procedure to diagnose to gallstone

Few tests are recommended to diagnose gallstone:

Ultra sound and CT scan to get the picture of gallbladder. The images are used to analyze the signs of gallstones.

Hepatobiliary Iminodiacetic acid scan (HIDA) and MRI are suggested to get the picture of bile ducts whether the gallstone is causing blockage or not. ERCP scan can be used to the detection; if a gallstone is a sound, then it can be removed during the procedure.

Blood test to check for other infection.

Treatment

A gallstone can either be removed by surgery or dissolved with oral medication. The surgery removes the gallbladder. After the surgery, the bile directly moves from the liver to small intestine. Removal of the gallbladder does not affect the digestive system.

There are few ways to prevent gallstones. As advised by the doctor, here are a few suggestions to prevent gallstones:

Not to skip meals: try to have meals at regular times, skipping meals may increase the risk of gallstone.

Lose weight: the doctors sometimes advise you to lose weight but this needs to be done slowly. Aim to lose weight of half or one kg in a week.  Losing weight suddenly may also increase the risk.

Achieve balanced weight: just the way obesity increases the risk of gallstones, one needs to be maintain a healthy weight. Burn the calories with physical exercise and eating the right food.

Have healthy diet and exercise regularly.