What is a Gallbladder Sludge?
Gallbladder is present between liver and intestines. It is used to store bile and release it to intestine for digestion purposes. It is possible that gallbladder may get deposited with monohydrate crystals of cholesterol, calcium birubinate or due to other salts, which may result into formation of sludge. The calcium salts are prone to become rock candy type and they also seem to look like sand particles, which is also known as sludge. It is important to understand the causes of gallbladder sludge, its symptoms and treatment.
What Causes Gallbladder Sludge?
Gallbladder Sludge formation happens when there is constant concentration of bile or sediments of cholesterol and calcium bilirubin in the body. Mucus, which is present in the lining of gallbladder may mix with the sediments and start getting collected inside the gallbladder. The process results into formation of Gallbladder sludge. Sludge is sometimes necessary in cases of pregnancy, strict diet or fasting. The person who doesn't eat food or doesn't get nutrition may require sludge to be present in order to process into the body. The body is able to handle normal concentration of Gallbladder sludge, but greater concentration alters the ability of bile to hold it and result into formation of sediments, which causes gallbladder sludge.
It is possible that sludge is present inside gallbladder and you may never be able to know. Sometimes small amount of Gallbladder sludge comes and goes as well, which could lead to thickening of sludge and sometimes lead to rock like objects known as gallstones. The causes of Gallbladder sludge formation include disturbances in digestion, proper metabolism of cholesterol and other factors that affect digestion and absorption. The presence of Gallbladder sludge is a step by step formation of gallstones, but having sludge in gallbladder does not mean that gallstones are inevitable. Sludge is more like tiny stones which may pass through the bile duct and can result into pain in gallbladder.
The cause of gallbladder sludge depends on various factors. Presence of excess sludge inside gallbladder is not usual and women have greater risk than men. Diabetes and pregnancy may cause development of gallbladder sludge. People with higher risk of causing gallbladder sludge include overweight people who quickly start losing weight, critically ill patients and also those who have undergone organ transplant.
Symptoms of Gallbladder Sludge
Some of the common symptoms of gallbladder sludge include:
- Abdominal Pain- Pain in the right side of upper abdomen shortly after meal may be a possible symptom of having gallbladder problems.
- Chest Pain- Pain related to problems in the gallbladder are most typically reported in abdominal chest pain as well as shoulder pain and related to gallbladder.
- Nausea- Vomiting and nausea are one of the major symptoms of gallbladder problems, which may indicate the presence of gallbladder sludge.
- Changes in Bowel Movement- Clay like appearance in stools are also a symptom of gallbladder sludge or gallstones.
Treatment for Gallbladder Sludge
It is important to take necessary precautions and treatments if any sludge is found in gallbladder. Patients should be aware about the potential risks of having Gallbladder sludge and can even cause inflammation in gallbladder if sludge is combined with mucus to block bile duct.
In most of the cases, there is not a major treatment required for Gallbladder sludge unless there are specific symptoms associated with it. In most cases of gallbladder pain and associated symptoms, it is necessary to seek medical opinion. Appropriate investigations and imaging studies, X-ray ultrasound may be ordered to check the presence of gallstones or sludge in gallbladder. Certain medications may be prescribed based on the symptoms of gallbladder sludge.
Treatment of gallstones requires surgical removal of gallbladder, if found appropriate. The same may be considered for gallbladder sludge, if required in severe cases. Since gallbladder is not a critical part of body without which body cannot operate, doctors may recommend to surgically remove gallbladder in some severe circumstances.
Gallbladder sludge can be problematic only if its concentration is about certain levels. One should be aware of and keep a watch on the symptoms of gallbladder sludge. Understanding the process of bile production can also help keep gallbladder problems in check. Frequent meals increase gallbladder emptying and secretion of bile. So, one should consume low fat and low sugar meals in order to reduce the risk of cholesterol stones. Apart from this, one should also try to maintain sugar levels in body and manage weight since diabetes can increase the risk of gallbladder sludge and gallstones. Seeking medical opinion at the right time can help to provide timely treatment and avoid further complications.