Cholelithiasis

Cholelithiasis (also called gallstones) is a form of gallbladder disease where gallstones form in your gallbladder. The gallbladder is a non-essential organ that stores bile made in the liver, which helps digest fats. Gallstones begin as small crystals and slowly grow into stones. Gallstone pain occurs when the gallbladder spasms, and a gallstone is blocking the duct. Pain can also occur when a stone passes out of the duct.

Women are more likely to develop gallstones than men. Other factors that increase the risk of gallbladder disease are:

  • Having multiple pregnancies. Physicians sometimes advise removing diseased gallbladders before future pregnancies.

  • Obesity.

  • Diets heavy in fried foods and fat.

  • Increasing age (older than 60).

  • Prolonged use of medications containing female hormones.

  • Diabetes mellitus.

  • Rapid weight loss.

  • Family history of gallstones (heredity).

SYMPTOMS

  • Feeling sick to your stomach (nauseous).

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

  • Sudden pain. It may persist from several minutes to several hours.

  • Worsening pain with deep breathing or when jarred.

  • Fever.

  • Tenderness to the touch.

In some cases, when gallstones do not move into the bile duct, people have no pain or symptoms. These are called "silent" gallstones.

TREATMENT

In severe cases, emergency surgery may be required.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Follow a low-fat diet until seen again. Fat causes the gallbladder to contract, which can result in pain.

  • Follow up as instructed. Attacks are almost always recurrent and surgery is usually required for permanent treatment.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your pain increases and is not controlled by medications.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C), not controlled by medication.

  • You develop nausea and vomiting.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.