Gallstones are stone-like deposits that form in the gallbladder due to crystallization of cholesterol or bilirubin, which are components of bile. For those of you who have been diagnosed with gallstones, this HealthHearty write-up provides a list of questions you should ask your doctor to get a better understanding of your medical condition and the best treatment options.
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac located below the liver. It stores bile, which is the digestive juice produced by the liver. The gallbladder contracts whenever we consume food items that are rich in fat, thereby releasing bile into the ducts. Bile is secreted from the ducts into the small intestine, where it helps in breaking down fats. The liver cells secrete cholesterol into bile, so as to prevent excessive accumulation of cholesterol in the body. Bile acids and lecithin dissolve cholesterol into bile. Bile also contains bilirubin and bile salts. If the liver secretes large amounts of cholesterol, which doesn’t get dissolved in the bile, it may harden to form cholesterol gallstones. The size of these deposits could be as small as a grain of sand, or as large as a golf ball. Around 75% of the gallstones are cholesterol stones. Gallstones could also form if the gallbladder doesn’t contract properly, resulting in accumulation of bile.
The presence of gallstones in the gallbladder is medically referred to as cholelithiasis. When gallstones get lodged in a duct, they can obstruct the flow of bile. Cholecystitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the gallbladder, is a complication of gallstones. Medical assistance must be sought if one experiences the following symptoms every now and then.
- Intense pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen
- Pain that radiates to the chest, shoulders, or back
What to Ask Your Doctor About Gallstones
Sometimes, gallstones are not large enough to cause severe symptoms, and such silent gallstones may not require treatment. Other times, they can cause intense pain. People who often experience gallbladder attacks, which are episodes of intense pain and discomfort that often occur after a fatty meal, must seek medical assistance to understand this condition, as well as suitable treatment options.
If your family doctor asks you to consult a gastroenterologist, it would be best to make a list of the medicines or supplements that you have been taking. To get a clear idea of your condition, the gastroenterologist is most likely to ask you questions regarding the onset of this condition, and the duration for which you have been experiencing the symptoms. If you have been able to identify anything that triggers the symptoms, make sure that you inform the doctor accordingly. You can best utilize your time with the specialist by going with a list of questions to ask your doctor about gallstones.
If your doctor has recommended cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery), do ask him to tell you about the total cost and duration of the surgery. Here’s a list of questions you can ask your doctor about this procedure.
Though the gallbladder is not a vestigial organ, it just acts as a reservoir of bile and secretes it into the small intestine, which is why cholecystectomy is considered to be quite safe. However, people with certain medical conditions may not be suitable candidates for this surgery. Under such circumstances, doctors may suggest other treatment options, such as oral dissolution therapy or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, for dissolving or breaking down gallstones. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to refrain from concealing any information regarding your lifestyle or the medical conditions that you have been diagnosed with. Do not hesitate to clarify your doubts regarding anything that your doctor tells you during the appointment.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.