A Galling Problem – Dr Ganesh’s Commentary Piece
Article being referenced can be found on The Straits Times. This piece a commentary by Dr Ganesh Ramalingam.
An interesting article and an observable trend in recent years over the prevalence of gallstones and other gallbladder diseases seen in younger adults.
With diet and lifestyle being common risk factors, adults, whether young or old, often forget how easily gallbladder-related issues can be mitigated.
But first, what is gallbladder disease, and how does it affect us?
Let’s find out more:
What is Gallbladder Disease?
Gallbladder disease is a condition that affects the gallbladder, a small sac-like organ that stores bile produced by the liver. Bile is a fluid that helps to break down fats in the intestine during digestion.
Gallbladder diseases can be either acute or chronic. Acute conditions usually develop suddenly and may last for only a short period, while chronic conditions develop gradually and last for months or years.
Are Gallstones the most common forms of Gallbladder Diseases?
Gallstones, the most common gallbladder disease, are estimated to be present in around 1 in 10 people. Gallstones form when there is an imbalance in the chemicals that make up bile, a substance that helps to break down fat in the intestine.
This can happen if the gallbladder doesn’t empty properly, if there is too much cholesterol in the bile, or if the bile becomes too concentrated.
The size of gallstones can range from a grain of sand to a golf ball and can be either hard or soft.
Most people with gallstones don’t have any symptoms, but some may experience pain in the abdomen, bloating, or indigestion. If gallstones become lodged in the bile ducts, they can block the flow of bile and cause inflammation and pain.
Is there a rising trend amongst adults (aged below 40) developing gallstones?
According to a study, gallstones are more common in women than men, and the risk of developing gallstones increases with age. However, as mentioned in the article, there has been a recent increase in the number of young adults diagnosed with gallstones.
While the exact cause of this trend is unknown, several possible explanations exist. One possibility is that the rising obesity rates amongst young adults contribute to the development of gallstones. Another possibility is that changes in diet and lifestyle are playing a role.
For example, consumption of fatty foods and refined sugars has been linked to an increased risk of gallstone formation. Additionally, adults who do not get enough exercise or have a sedentary lifestyle are also at higher risk. Therefore, it is important for young adults to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to reduce their chances of developing gallstones.
Are there warning signs that I have gallstones or gallbladder disease?
In most cases, gallbladder disease can be asymptomatic until complications such as inflammation or blockage develop. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention as you may have gallstones or early-stage gallbladder disease.
- Abdominal pain, especially after fatty meals,
- Fever, and
If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention immediately for a proper assessment.
When should I see a doctor for gallbladder disease?
In most cases, the best thing to do is to see your doctor as soon as you start having symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the condition from getting worse. Your doctor will likely want a physical exam and order tests, such as an ultrasound, to confirm the diagnosis.
If gallbladder disease is found, treatment will focus on relieving symptoms and preventing complications. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the gallbladder.
However, many people with gallbladder disease can manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. If you think you may have gallbladder disease, talk to your doctor to find out what’s best for you.
What are possible treatments for gallbladder disease?
Gallbladder disease occurs when the gallbladder becomes damaged or inflamed. The most common type of gallbladder disease is cholecystitis, an inflammation of the gallbladder that can be caused by a buildup of cholesterol or other substances. Treatment for cholecystitis typically involves antibiotics and pain relief. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the gallbladder.
Other types of gallbladder disease include gallstones, which are hardened deposits of cholesterol or other substances that can block the bile ducts and cause pain, and pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas that can occur if gallstones block the pancreatic duct. Treatment for pancreatitis typically involves pain relief and rest. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the gallstones or part of the pancreas.
What to expect from gallbladder surgery?
Gallbladder surgery is a standard and safe procedure that removes the gallbladder.
The surgery is usually performed using laparoscopic techniques, which require only small incisions in the abdomen. This results in less pain and a shorter recovery than traditional open surgery. In most cases, patients can return home the same day or the following day. Following your doctor’s instructions for care after the surgery is important, including diet and activity restrictions.
Usually, these restrictions are only temporary, and you can return to normal activities within a few weeks.
Gallbladder surgery is generally safe, but as with any surgical procedure, some risks are involved. These include infection, bleeding, and damage to surrounding organs. However, these complications are rare, and most people experience a smooth and successful recovery.
Is there Medisave / Insurance coverage available for gallbladder surgery in Singapore?
The good news is that Medisave / Insurance coverage is available for gallbladder surgery in Singapore. However, the coverage will depend on your Medisave / Insurance plan. If you need gallbladder surgery, check with your Medisave / Insurance provider to see what coverage is available to you. Alternatively, you may read more information about our costing recommendations on gallbladder surgeries.
Gallbladder diseases, while on the rise, is a worrying trend. However, adequate care for yourself and your lifestyle can help you prevent the potential development of this disease.
Most importantly, it doesn’t take many sacrifices for you to make a difference.
Start by committing to cut back on oily and fried foods, commit to spending at least 15 minutes a day exercising, and cut back on alcohol.
Ultimately, it’s about small incremental actions towards getting your body in better shape while keeping diseases at bay.