For about a decade, 45-year-old Ms. Chen skipped breakfast, ate mostly leftovers, and took her meals at odd hours. Shortly after she checked into Guangji Hospital in Hezhou with “unbearable” abdominal pain, doctors spent over six hours removing 200 gallstones, some of which were egg-sized.
Gallbladder stones most commonly occur in overweight women over 40. However, Dr. Quan Xuwei, Ms. Chen’s lead surgeon, said that poor diet is another big risk factor. For example, when people skip breakfast, their gallbladders no longer shrink or expand and bile builds up, he explained. That results in elevated calcium levels, causing gallstones, and elevated cholesterol levels, possibly causing heart disease.
British Dr. George Webster scoffed at the notion that lifestyle causes gallstones, calling it “pure speculation, with no scientific evidence base to support it.”
Gallbladder stones are a lot like kidney stones, as both are essentially calcium deposits, both are usually rather small, and both are incredibly painful. For some reason, gallstones are a lot more common in East Asia than in other parts of the world, which is why it is not easy to find an endoscopy center in Brooklyn, NY that deals with gallstones on a regular basis.
Many people may have gallstones and not even know it, because they do not cause any adverse effects unless they block a bile duct. If the gallbladder cannot empty bile as it should, the substance builds up and eventually collects to form stones.
In addition to diet and genetics, some other risk factors include:
- Birth Control Pills: An elevated estrogen level often leads to elevated cholesterol, causing gallstones.
Diabetes: Diabetics often have high triglyceride levels, and too much of this fat causes gallstones.
- Fasting: If you fast for religious, medical, or other reasons, your gallbladder may not squeeze quite as much.
If not properly treated, gallstones cause severe abdominal pain, much like kidney stones or appendicitis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, a special kind of endoscopy, is usually the best way to find and remove gallstones.
ERCP includes not only the scope, but also a dye that’s injected into the gallbladder, allowing the doctor to easily see the stones with the endoscope’s high-resolution camera. The doctor can then switch tools and use the endoscope to remove the stones, in most cases.
To address your abdominal pain or other gastrointestinal issue, contact us today.