Vumile Hlophe from Soshanguve ignored strange body pains and cramps for several months before they grew so bad she had to be hospitalised. Sharon Nkosi writes that the ongoing discomfort she had ignored turned out to be gallstones – a condition that will be fixed when she undergoes surgery at the end of this month.
While gallstones can be genetic, the condition can be exacerbated by the consumption of too much fatty food. Most people who have heard about gallstones are not aware that eating too much fat and cholesterol can be a huge factor in worsening the condition.
Gallstones are solid particles that form from the hardening of digestive fluid in the gallbladder.
Hlophe, now 30 years old, struggled with gallstones for well over a year before she was eventually properly diagnosed.
“For so long I have been in pain that comes and goes. I just assumed that it was probably cramps, until the pains became really serious,” she explained.
“I took it very lightly until the pains resulted in me being hospitalised. That’s when the nurses told me I have gallstones.
Hlophe says it started when she began feeling intense pain in her upper abdomen on her right side. The pain would come and sometimes she would also experience nausea.
“They really are just on and off pains. Some days they only lasted a few minutes, but some days it would go on for a couple of hours,” she explained.
No medication was prescribed to her, but she is had been scheduled for surgery on January 31.
Hlophe now pays careful attention to what she eats.
A local clinic nurse in the Soshanguve area, Buli Nxaki, advises people not to ignore any pains they feel.
“It is important for patients to visit the clinic or make an appointment with a doctor if they have any pains that worry them. Seeking immediate care is also important if they develop signs or symptoms of serious gallstone complications, such as intense abdominal pain that makes it hard to sit still or finding a comfortable position, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes as well as high fever.”
There are two types of gallstones. These are cholesterol gallstones composed mainly of undissolved cholesterol, but may also contain other components; and pigment gallstones which are the dark brown or black stones that form when there is too much bilirubin in the bile.
Nxaki listed a few factors that can increase a person’s risk of getting gallstones. These include being female, eating foods with a lot of fat, a high cholesterol diet, not eating enough fibre as well as having a family history of gallstones.
An edited copy of this story was published by The Star.