Gallstones, or cholelithiasis, affect 25 million Americans, per University of Maryland Medical Center. Gallstones are formed in the gallbladder and are hardened deposits of digestive fluid, per the Mayo Clinic. Many people who have gallstones do not have symptoms, and are not aware they have them. When symptoms do occur, individuals may experience pain in the upper right side of the abdomen that radiates to the back. Pain may be severe and be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Fortunately, there are treatment options that can help ease gallstone pain. Treatment for easing gallstone pain may include medication, surgery and home remedies.
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Make a doctor's appointment or go the emergency room. Gallstones are the most common reason for ER visits due to abdominal pain. You will need a medical examination to rule out other conditions that are causing your pain. Your physician may prescribe bile salt medication that can dissolve the gallstones, or pain relievers. Prescription pain medication will help ease your pain while you wait for the bile salts to dissolve the gallstones.
Take a warm bath. A warm bath is soothing, and it can also help alleviate the anxiety that is often accompanied by the severe pain of gallstones. Anxiety can contribute to stomach pain that may increase the severity of your gallstone discomfort. It can also help minimise gallbladder contractions that may also occur during a gallbladder attack.
Place a heating pad on the area of your pain. Warmth from the heating pad may help soothe away, or ease the pain of gallstones. A warm heating pad may also be effective in diminishing anxiety. Make sure the heating pad is not too hot, and do not fall asleep with it on because you do not want to risk burning your skin.
Ask your doctor about extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). This non-surgical procedure employs shock waves to break up gallstones so that it may be easier for them to be passed through the intestinal tract. This procedure can be performed in an outpatient facility.
Inquire about gallbladder surgery. Many times medication to dissolve gallstones is ineffective. This is especially true for larger stones. When other treatment options fail, the only other alternative may be removal of the gallbladder. Gallbladder surgery can be done by a minimally invasive procedure that does not require large incisions or a lengthy hospital stay.
Tips and warnings
- By eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you may be able to prevent gallstones. A diet low in fat and cholesterol can minimise the risk of developing cholesterol-containing gallstones.
- If you experience severe abdominal pain, or your pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever or chest pain, seek emergency medical treatment as soon as possible.
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