The most common problem which is encountered is the formation of gallstones. The classical risk factors include being female, obesity, over 40 years of age – in reality, anyone can get gallstones.
Biliary colic – when the gallbladder contracts, the stones move around and cause pain. This usually occurs after eating, and subsides after 1-2 hours. The frequency of attacks may be reduced by eliminating fat or oil from the diet.
Cholecystitis – if a stone gets impacted of stuck at the entrance of the gallbladder, it can lead to inflammation and infection of the gallbladder. This will cause more prolonged pain which doesn’t subside, and you may also experience a fever. This condition needs to be treated with antibiotics, and ideally prompt removal of the gallbladder.
Jaundice – stones may slip out of the gallbladder and enter the tube called the ‘bile duct’ which drains the bile from the liver into the intestine. If this happens, it may obstruct the liver and lead to jaundice – a yellow discoloration of the skin. You may also notice that your urine appears darker, and your faeces appears pale. A blocked bile duct can also lead to infection of the bile, a serious condition called cholangitis – you will need to have a procedure to remove the stone or put a stent to bypass the blockage.
Pancreatitis – if a stone escapes the gallbladder and falls into the bile duct, it can also block the duct of the pancreas, an organ which makes a lot of digestive juices. This can lead to the pancreas ‘attacking itself’, a condition called pancreatitis. This ranges from mild to severe and life-theatening. If you have an attack of pancreatitis and have proven gallstones, it would be recommended to remove your gallbladder, to reduce the risk of another potentially more serious attack.