Gallstones (Encyclopedia of Medicine)
A gallstone is a solid crystal deposit that forms in the gallbladder, which is a pear-shaped organ that stores bile salts until they are needed to help digest fatty foods. Gallstones can migrate to other parts of the digestive tract and cause severe pain with life-threatening complications.
Gallstones vary in size and chemical structure. A gallstone may be as tiny as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Eighty percent of gallstones are composed of cholesterol. They are formed when the liver produces more cholesterol than digestive juices can liquefy. The remaining 20% of gallstones are composed of calcium and an orange-yellow waste product called bilirubin. Bilirubin gives urine its characteristic color and sometimes causes jaundice.
Gallstones are the most common of all gallbladder problems. They are responsible for 90% of gallbladder and bile duct disease, and are the fifth most common reason for hospitalization of adults in the United States. Gallstones usually develop in adults between the ages of 20 and 50; about 20% of patients with gallstones are over 40. The risk of developing gallstones increases with aget least 20% of people over 60 have a single large stone or as many as several thousand smaller ones. The gender ratio of gallstone patients changes with age....
(The entire section is 1752 words.)
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Gallstones (Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine)
Gallstones are solid crystal deposits that form in the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ that stores bile until it is needed to help digest fatty foods. These crystals can migrate to other parts of the digestive tract, causing severe pain and life-threatening complications. Gallstones vary in size and chemical structure. They may be as tiny as a grain of sand, or as large as a golf ball.
Gallstones usually develop in adults between the ages of 20 and 50. The risk of developing gallstones increases with age. Young women are up to six times more likely to develop gallstones than men in the same age group. In patients over 50, however, the condition affects men and women with equal frequency. Native Americans develop gallstones more often than any other segment of the population, and Mexican Americans have the second highest incidence of this disease. Gallstones tend to be passed down genetically in families.
Eighty percent of gallstones are composed of cholesterol. They are formed when the liver produces more cholesterol than the digestive juices can liquefy. The remaining 20% of gallstones are composed of calcium and an orange-yellow waste product called bilirubin, which gives urine its characteristic color and sometimes causes jaundice.
(The entire section is 1659 words.)
Gallstones (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
Gallstones form in the gallbladder when there is an excessive increase in the concentration of cholesterol in bile. (Bile is a secretion of the liver that aids in fat emulsification.) In the United States, 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men have cholesterol gallstones by age sixty-five. Less common are pigment stones, which form when bilirubin, a bile pigment, precipitates in bile following an increase in the breakdown of red blood cells, as in sickle cell anemia. Risk factors for cholesterol gallstones include heredity (Native Americans are at increased risk), obesity, rapid weight loss, physical inactivity, pregnancy, and diabetes. Episodic abdominal pain (biliary colic) or inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) occur in 25 percent of persons with gallstones. A stone may pass from the gallbladder and block the bile duct or cause pancreatitis. Symptomatic stones are generally treated by surgical removal of the gall bladder (cholecystectomy) or, occasionally, chemical dissolution of the stones by oral administration of bile acids.
LAWRENCE S. FRIEDMAN
(SEE ALSO: Cholesterol Test; Nutrition; Physical Activity; Sickle Cell Disease)
Bilhartz, L. E., and Horton, J. D. (1998). "Gallstone Disease and Its Complications." In Sleisinger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management, 6th edition, eds. M. Feldman, B. F. Scharschmidt, and M. H. Sleisinger. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.