The gallbladder is a small organ located underneath your liver at the right hand side. It is a pear shaped organ which actually stores the bile, which is a digestive fluid that helps in digesting meals which are high in fat and cholesterol. The formation of sludge in the gallbladder occurs when the bile combines with other particles like cholesterol crystals, mucus, calcium and salt particles. All these particles combine to form a dense sludge in the bladder. The sludge may either flush out on its own, or remain. If the gallbladder sludge is thick in density, then it may lead to formation of gallstones.
What Causes Sludge in the Gallbladder?
By reading the aforementioned paragraph, you would have understood that the gallbladder sludge is formed by the fat and cholesterol deposits present in the body. There could be many reasons, besides the one mentioned above, behind the formation of sludge in the gallbladder. Some of the main causes are as follows.
Rapid Weight Loss
Going on a crash diet and losing weight rapidly can also cause formation of sludge in the gallbladder. People who suddenly go into strict fasting or crash diets are prone to have gallbladder sludge. This is because eating less means less excretion of the bile from the gallbladder. Due to this the gallbladder needs to store the bile within, which can cause gallbladder sludge.
Pregnancy is another condition that can lead to gallbladder sludge. This could be due to changes in diet, hormonal change, and so on. In fact, you will find many women who develop gallbladder sludge and gallstones during this condition.
Certain medications also can trigger the formation of gallbladder sludge. Therefore, if you have been experiencing the symptoms of gallbladder sludge specifically after starting some medication, then ask your doctor about the same and try to stop it.
Eating High Cholesterol Diet
As mentioned earlier, sludge and gallstones are formed due to cholesterol, calcium and fat deposits. The bile in the gallbladder may contain too much of cholesterol, because of eating a diet which is high in cholesterol. This can also cause gallbladder sludge.
Alcohol or Drug Abuse
If you have been indulging into too much of alcohol or other drugs, then there are chances that you may have gallbladder sludge. Too much of alcohol forces your liver to work all the more harder, working harder means excreting more bile, and more bile means chances of formation of sludge.
What are the Symptoms of a Gallbladder Sludge?
Most of the time, people having gallbladder sludge do not experience any symptoms and signs. It can either flush itself out of the body on its own, or it can remain inside and block the bile duct. Due to the blockage, there can be certain discomfort in the abdomen which can be indicated by the following symptoms.
- Sharp and severe pain at the upper abdomen on the right side
- Nausea and Vomiting
- At times people also suffer from high fever and chills
Diagnosis and Treatment of Gallbladder Sludge
As mentioned earlier, if the body automatically flushes out the sludge, then there is nothing to worry about. However, the remaining sludge not only leads to the formation of gallstones, but it can also pose many health related threats like pancreatitis, cholecystitis, and biliary colic. In fact, gallbladder problems also put a person under the risk of suffering from heart issues. If you can identify yourself with the aforementioned symptoms, then you must get in touch with your health care specialist as soon as possible.
He or she will conduct various tests and examinations like transabdominal ultrasonography which can help diagnose this condition. If you experience severe pain, then your doctor would advice you to take some pain killers. Certain medications like Ursodiol may be prescribed so that the sludge can be treated by breaking down the proteins present in the bile. If the condition is really severe, then your doctor might conduct surgery for removing gallbladder.
Bringing changes in your diet can actually prove to be very helpful, which is why you must follow the diet for gallbladder sludge. Cut down on high sodium foods, cholesterol and fatty foods and consume a high fiber diet so that it helps in the process of digestion giving your liver a little rest, thereby secreting lesser bile in the body. Keeping your body well hydrated also helps. Also make sure that you don't eat large meals but rather, consume food in lesser quantities.