Medical Care , Health & Wellness
The gallbladder and bile ducts
The gallbladder and bile ducts play an integral role in our digestive system — most of which involve helping break down food for easy absorption of nutrients. However, as with all organs, they are prone to developing issues, with the most common being gallstones and bile duct stones.
Bile, which is stored in and released by the gallbladder, functions as an emulsifier, converting fats into fatty acids that can be absorbed by the gut. It also helps with the absorption of nutrients and in carrying waste products from the liver.
As their names suggest, gallstones and bile duct stones are stone-like deposits that form as a result of the bile having too much cholesterol, too much bilirubin, or if the gallbladder doesn’t empty completely or often enough. Some stones may not cause symptoms, but other stones, especially when obstructing the bile duct, may lead to life-threatening conditions.
In this article, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Medical Director of Alpha Digestive and Liver Centre, Dr Benjamin Yip, lets us in on when to visit a doctor and the treatment options available.
As mentioned earlier, gallstones may not cause any symptoms at all. However, if they move into the other areas, such as the bile duct (bile duct stones) or pancreatic duct, these stones may cause a blockage and put one at risk of severe life-threatening complications such as bile duct inflammation.
Bile duct stones can block the release of bile into the small intestine, and this blockage can lead to inflammation, infection and even fatal damage to the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas.
A bile duct blockage of presents as persistent pain in your upper right abdomen. Other symptoms include:
However, it is also possible for people with bile duct stones to have no symptoms.