A polyp is defined as an abnormal growth of tissue that stems from the mucous membrane. As polyps develop from the mucous membrane, these growths are usually found in the nose, sinuses, stomach, uterus and cervix. Even the gallbladder may develop polyps. Such polyps are described as tissue growths or lesions (like tissue growths) that develop from the wall of the gallbladder. As per statistics, around five percent of adult humans may have gallbladder polyps, which is a condition that is usually considered harmless. However, some of them can be malignant too. While some of the affected people experience gallbladder polyp symptoms, others may not.
Polyps of the gallbladder can be of different types. Basically, they are classified into malignant and benign ones. While, malignant ones are cancerous polyps, benign ones are non cancerous growths that are also divided into two sub types - true tumors and pseudotumors. True tumors are actual tissue growths, which are produced as a result of abnormal accumulation of mucous membrane tissues. One of the classic example of a true tumor is adenoma. Even pseudotumors can be of different types. They include cholesterol polyps and polypoid lesions.
- The most common among the different types of benign gallbladder polyps is cholesterol polyp, which can be found singly or as small tiny growths (less than 10 mm in size). These polyps develop as a result of accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Another type is fibroid polyps that are found to develop in those with gallstones and inflammatory conditions of the gallbladder.
- A type of gallbladder polyp that is associated with gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) is inflammatory polyp. These polyps may rarely be associated with gallstones too.
- The gallbladder may also develop lymphoid polyps that are minute (less than 0.5 mm) growths which are mainly found in those with gallbladder inflammation and/or lymphoid hyperplasia (rapid increase in lymphocytes).
Besides the above mentioned ones, there are certain other types, like granulation tissue polyps, hyperplastic polyps, adenomas and carcinomas. According to health experts, almost 95% of the gallbladder polyps are benign. However, gallbladder carcinoma is the fifth common type of cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. It has been observed that most of these polyps that are less than one centimeter in size, are found to be benign and vice versa. Some of the small polyps can also be cancerous, especially, if they are accompanied with other gallbladder conditions like primary sclerosing cholangitis.
These polyps are mostly found to be asymptomatic. Most of the affected people may not exhibit any noticeable gallbladder polyp symptoms. In most cases, the condition is detected accidentally, when the person undergoes an ultrasound test or CT scan of the abdomen for other reasons. However, some of these people may develop abdominal pain. Such pain is often described to be similar to that of gallstones or gallbladder inflammation, but, less severe. Some may develop jaundice, if the polyp gets detached from its location and settles inside the bile duct.
Other possible symptoms include nausea, vomiting and/or digestive problems. It has been noticed that gallbladder polyps are not usually found in young people. Older men are prone to develop this condition. As compared to men, women have less chances of developing such polyps. Gallbladder polyps are diagnosed with the help of ultrasonography or CT scan. Generally, treatment is not required, if the polyps are too small (less than 10 mm). If the patient experiences unbearable symptoms, then removal of gallbladder may be recommended.
If the polyps are large (with or without symptoms), then, cholecystectomy (removal of gallbladder) will be required. If the polyps are accompanied by other gallbladder complications, then also removal will be required. In short, the type of treatment may vary with the condition of the patient. It is also said that adopting a gallbladder polyp diet will be beneficial for those with symptoms. Such low-fat diet with no caffeine and alcohol, may also prove useful in preventing the condition to some extent.