Gallstone : Causes

A gallstone is a hard rock-like material that forms inside the gall bladder. The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ that stores and concentrates bile. Gallstones can be large or small, single or multiple.

There are two types of gallstones :

(1) Cholesterol stones: They are yellow -green in colour and mainly consists of hardened cholesterol. About 80% of gallstones are cholesterol stones

(2) Pigment stones: They are small , dark stones made of bilirubin.

Why and how gallstones form is not fully understood, but it is thought that an abnormality in function of the gall bladder might be a cause.

Cholesterol Stones
It is believed to form when bile contains either too much of cholesterol or bilirubin or not enough bile salts. It is also formed when the gall bladder does not empty efficiently.

Pigment Stones
The reason for the formation of pigment stones is not known, but is mainly present in individuals suffering from cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, and hereditary blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia.

Other Risk Factors

Some other factors known to contribute to gallstone formation are

(1) Age: Individuals 60 years and over are more likely to develop gallstones.

(2) Gender: Women between 20 and 60 years of age are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men.

(3) Obesity: Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones, especially in women. The most likely reason is that obesity tends to reduce the amount of bile salts in bile, resulting in more cholesterol.

(4) Estrogen: Women who are on hormone replacement therapy, or birth control pills for long durations are found to have an increase in the amount of cholesterol levels in bile, which leads to a decrease in gallbladder movement and eventually lead to the formation of gallstones.

(5) Drugs that lower Cholesterol: Individuals taking drugs to lower cholesterol levels are at risk of developing gallstones because the drugs cause an increased amount of cholesterol to be secreted in bile.

(6) Diabetic Patients: Diabetics are more prone to developing gallstones due to the presence of fatty acids called triglycerides normally present in patients with diabetes.

(7) Sudden loss of weight: In conditions where there is a sudden loss of weight, while metabolizing fat the body causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into bile, which in turn could lead to gallstone formation.

(8) Fasting: Frequent episodes of fasting causes a decrease in the movement of the gallbladder leading to an over concentration of cholesterol, which increases one’s risk of developing gallstones.

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