Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gallbladder Problems

Background: A couple of months ago I had horrific pain in my stomach area that spread to my shoulder blade area. (By stomach I mean where the stomach is located, not my abdomen.) It woke me in the middle of the night. I ended up holding my baby on my recliner while I fervently prayed I wasn't dying.

The medical experts on Facebook advised me to write it off as one "those things" unless it happened again.

So I wrote that episode off. Then it happened again later that week. Twice.

I consulted with Dr. Swagbucks. He seemed to think that I might have gallbladder issues or an ulcer. On his advice I made an appointment to see a doctor in real life. He ran some tests and confirmed that I had gallstones. (The ultrasound tech said there were hundreds of them, but that may have been hyperbole.)

Being the type of person that researches something to death, I knew my options for dealing with gallstones or cholelithiasis for those who like science or Scrabble. I also knew I didn't like them. Surgery is the main option. There are medicines to take that will dissolve them, but it takes a couple of years to work and they are contraindicated while pregnant or breastfeeding. Another option is to use shock wave therapy (lithotripsy) to break them up. Which involves passing them.

The non-surgery options are mainly used in cases where surgery is not an option. They don't always work and, even when they do, stones are likely to recur. Of course, even with the surgery there is a chance that stones will form again.

There is another "option." I put that words in quotes because I believe it to be a scam. There are many variations, but the gist is the patient consumes oil and apple juice (or equivalent). The acid dissolves the stones and the oil helps them to pass. The problem is neither substance comes in contact with the gallbladder or bile ducts.

I decided to wait. I don't like surgery. When I had my knees done, a decade ago, I swore I'd never do it again. I firmly believe that God gave me the organs I have because they have a purpose. Besides, most people with stones are asymptomatic. And the longer one can go without an attack, the less likely one is to have an attack. While I doubt the efficacy of the alternative treatment, I believe the stories that surgery doesn't always fix the issues. It would be horrible to have the surgery and see no improvement or possibly make things worse.