Gallstone disease is a common condition in the adults. According to research about 25 per cent of women and 10-15 per cent of men over the age of 50 are affected by gallstones. It may or may not cause symptoms. Depending on the severity of symptoms and type of symptoms gallstone disease is categorised as follows:
- Asymptomatic gallstone disease—the person has gallstones but is asymptomatic
- Uncomplicated gallstone disease—gallstones cause episodes of abdominal pain and other symptoms (biliary colic)
- Complicated gallstone disease—the person has severe form of gallbladder disease (i.e. acute cholecystitis or acute pancreatitis). Everyone who has biliary colic does not develop complicated gallstone disease. About 1 in 20 people with biliary colic are likely to develop more severe symptoms.
Prognosis of gallstones
Prognosis is good in most cases as effective treatments are available. The disease can be diagnosed easily and if you have symptomatic gallstone the gallbladder is removed (until there is some medical condition which prevents surgery). Surgical removal (cholecystectomy) is considered as best treatment for gallstones as gallbladder is a non-essential organ and laparoscopic cholecystectomy is widely available. Laparoscopic surgery has many advantages which includes smaller incision, shorter hospital stay, and less pain.
Gallstone treated with nonsurgical methods has risk of recurrence. Nonsurgical treatment for gallstones is used for people with cholesterol stones or who have a serious medical condition which prevents surgery.
Most people with gallstones do not develop complications of the disease if it is diagnosed and treated timely. Some complications of gallstones include:
- Inflammation of the gallbladder: If a gallstone obstructs the neck of the gallbladder it can lead to inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). Acute cholecystitis can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting.
- Blockage of the common bile duct: If the gallstone obstructs the ducts through which bile flows from your gallbladder or liver to your small intestine it can lead to jaundice.
- Blockage of the pancreatic duct: The pancreatic duct carries digestive enzymes from the pancreas to the intestine. If the pancreatic duct gets blocked because of gallstone it can lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Pancreatitis can be a serious condition which usually requires hospitalization.
- Gallbladder cancer:The risk of gallbladder cancer is increased in people with gallbladder stones.