Understanding The Relationship Between Gallstones And High Cholesterol Levels
Gallstones are hard deposits of digestive fluid that can occur in the gallbladder. In most cases, gallstones do not always require treatment until and unless they cause pain and discomfort.
Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile that can form in your gallbladder
The frequent recurrence of a dull pain in the upper right section of your abdomen is the most common sign that you might have gallstones. The pain often occurs after eating and can last a few hours before it calms down. A gallbladder is a tiny organ that is present below the liver and in the upper part of the abdomen. It is like a pouch that stores green-yellow liquid called bile that enhances digestion. The bile helps in turning cholesterol and fats into cholesteryl (a compound formed due to hydroxyl replacement in cholesterol and carboxylate replacement in fatty acids) to support digestion.
Gallstones are hard deposits of digestive fluid that can occur in the gallbladder. 80% of the gallstones are formed when there is excess cholesterol in the bile whereas the other 20% of gallstones are made of calcium salts and bilirubin.
What causes agllstones to form?
The exact reasons why gallstones are formed are unknown, however, following are the likely reasons that can cause gallstones:
1. Surplus cholesterol in the bile - Excess cholesterol that does not dissolve by bile, results in the formation of yellow cholesterol gallstones
2. Excess bilirubin in the bile - Surplus bilirubin production from liver damage or certain blood disorders can produce dark brown/black gallstones
3. Concentrated bile - When the liver fails to empty the bile content, the bile becomes overly concentrated which causes the development of gallstones
A few signs and symptoms to watch out:
In general, gallstones may not have any signs or symptoms. If a gallstone causes a blockage in duct it may result in following symptoms:
- Unexpected pain lasting several minutes to a few hours, in the upper right and/or centre portion of the abdomen
- Back pain between the shoulder blades
- Pain in your right shoulder
- Nausea or vomiting
One of the most common gallstones is cholesterol gallstones that are made up of cholesterol. Cholesterol is one of the chemical substances that liver cells produce into the bile. The liver eliminates surplus cholesterol by secreting it into the bile.
Cholesterol is a fat and bile is a watery solution. If the liver fails to dissolve the cholesterol, it leads to formation of gallstones in the gallbladder. The relationship between gallstones and cholesterol is very evident as the level of cholesterol determines the wellbeing of one's health.
Impact of cholesterol:
Cholesterol has principal functions in the body, but can also result in blocked arteries and heart diseases if left untreated. There are two types of cholesterol - high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which protects against heart diseases by carrying cholesterol to the liver and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) leads to heart related diseases. To bring the cholesterol under your control it is important to make some lifestyle changes.
Seek medical help if you experience pain or discomfort:
Gallstones can be very painful and dangerous in some cases. In most cases, gallstones do not always require treatment until and unless they cause pain and discomfort. Some people pass gallstones without even noticing. If you are in too much pain, then make a visit to your doctor. Gallstones can be removed through surgery and in some rare conditions, this can be removed with the help of medications.
Helpful lifestyle changes:
The ongoing pandemic has restricted us to work from homes due to which people have been following a very unhealthy lifestyle with less or no physical activity at all. Ensure you follow a healthy diet and cut down on foods high in fats. Maintaining a healthy weight and doing regular exercise will help improve cholesterol levels which can avoid the risk of gallstones. Eventually, a healthy diet for a gallbladder will result in good health in the long run.
(Dr. Manas Ranjan Tripathi is a General and Laproscopic Surgeon at Apollo Spectra Hospital Bangalore)
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