Gallbladder sludge often goes unnoticed in many folks, as it does not trigger any sludge in gallbladder symptoms. However, in some people the sludge in the gallbladder conduces to extreme pain in the upper, right quadrant of the abdomen.
Gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ, located below the liver, on the right side of the abdomen. The prime function of this tiny organ is to act as a reservoir for bile and concentrate it. The bile stored is used by the body for fat digestion in the small intestine. This bile stored here is produced in the liver (hepatocytes) and comprises water, electrolytes, phospholipids, bilirubin, bile acids and cholesterol. Besides being a fat emulsifying agent and keeping control on cholesterol levels, bile also assists in vitamin absorption. However, at times the gallbladder may encounter certain problems. One such problem associated to the gallbladder is gallbladder sludge. Let’s have a look at what does sludge in the gallbladder mean, how it is formed and what are the symptoms corresponding to this condition.
Sludge in Gallbladder
The function of the gallbladder is to empty the bile into the common bile duct, from where it enters the small intestine and assists in digestion. Failure of the gallbladder to empty its contents thoroughly, and crystallization of cholesterol and calcium salts can result in the formation of gallbladder sludge. The sludge can be identified by an ultrasonography of the gallbladder. This sludge is the result of a combination of bile particles, calcium salts, and cholesterol crystals. Also known as biliary sludge, gallbladder sludge is considered to be the microscopic form of gallstones.
It is said that unless one flushes this sludge out of the body, it can grow to form gallstones. Moreover, this sludge can also lead to grave medical conditions like pancreatitis, gallbladder inflammation, etc. However, even though they are known as precursors of gallstones, the fact that which size particles should be termed as gallstones is still not clear.
So what causes sludge in gallbladder? In most cases of sludge formation, scientists and doctors have not been able to zero in on any particular reason. We only know that for cholesterol (not very soluble) to remain suspended in fluid, it needs to be transported in clumps of bile salts called micelles. If the balance between bile salts and cholesterol tips, the bile fluid turns to sludge. This thickened sludge comprises a mucus gel containing calcium bilirubinate and cholesterol. However, some factors known to trigger sludge in gallbladder are fasting, rapid weight loss, intake of certain medicines, high cholesterol levels, pregnancy, alcohol, or drug damage.
Symptoms of Gallbladder Sludge
While most people encounter no health issues by the presence of gallbladder sludge, the sludge formed in others tends to block the bile ducts and results in the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in the upper right corner of the abdomen
- Fever and chills
- Pain after eating fatty and spicy food items
Sometimes, gallbladder sludge can even lead to inflammation of the pancreas and gallbladder. Since abdominal pain is related to several medical conditions, it is difficult to identify gallbladder sludge easily. Some people with gallbladder sludge may even develop gallstones.
Remedies for Sludge in Gallbladder
In most people the sludge dissolves on its own, has no symptoms and needs no treatment. In some, it exits the gallbladder without intervention, which is why most people with sludge in their gallbladders fail to even notice the sludge. However, in some, the pain is unbearable. Pain attacks due to the sludge in the gallbladder, can leave you writhing in pain in the middle of the night.
The gallbladder tries to get rid of the bigger sludge particles floating in the sludge. However, during the elimination process these large stone-like particles get stuck in the bile duct. This obstruction further spearheads a lot of pain and discomfort. Moreover, the sludge left in the gallbladder can conduce to inflammation of the tiny organ, which is followed by severe pain.
If you are struck by such an attack, to alleviate the pain you can take a lemon, squeeze out its juice and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil into it. Have it before going to bed and after waking up. You could also take one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of apple juice to get relief from the pain. A liver and gallbladder flush is also recommended to flush out gallstones and sludge. Moreover, eat a high-fiber diet and drink lots of water.
People with severe sludge in gallbladder symptoms are often recommended to go in for a cholecystectomy, which is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. However, an organ once removed is gone forever, thus, the best thing to do is try to avoid surgery in accordance to medical limits. Then again, it doesn’t make sense to cling onto a severely infected gallbladder and risk your body’s health. Whatever you do, make sure it’s done under the supervision of a medical practitioner. Never take medicines, even home remedies without consulting your physician.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.