Bile is lipid rich fluid produced by liver which helps in digestion of food. Gallbladder is a hollow bag attached to the liver on its lower side which stores bile. It is released from the gallbladder into the intestine when required to digest the food. Bile is carried from liver and gallbladder to the intestine by small tubes called bile duct.
Bile duct problems arise when the duct gets blocked due to which the flow of bile is hampered. Since the blockage does not allow bile flow into the intestine, it reverses back in the bile duct system. The main symptom of bile duct problem is jaundice. It is yellow discoloration of whites of eyes, skin and nails. There are several causes which can give rise to bile duct problems. The most common of them is bile duct blockage due to gallstones.
Causes Of Common Bile Duct Obstruction
- Gallstones: Gallstones are tiny stones present in gallbladder. They are the most common cause for blockage of common bile duct. It is the common tube from where the bile flows through liver and gallbladder into the intestine.
- Cholangiocarcinoma: It is rare bile duct cancer. It has a slow growth rate and a low propensity to metastasize.
- Strictures: strictures are scars formed in the bile duct either due to surgery of liver and gallbladder, or due to infection or inflammation. The stricture restricts or sometime blocks the flow of bile into the intestine.
- Biliary cirrhosis: it usually occurs in adults. More common in women. The condition is characterized by inflammation in the bile duct. It may cause scarring inside the bile duct. It may be accompanied with diseases such as Sjogren’s disease, thyroid problem or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Biliary atresia: It is a rare bile duct blockage problem found in infants after birth.
- Biliary Ascariasis: Ascariasis lumbricoid or round worm is an intestinal parasite. But it may abnormally migrate in the bile duct through its opening into the intestine.
Symptoms Of Bile Duct Problems
The symptoms of bile duct problems may be sudden in onset. In some cases they can appear gradually depending on the cause.
Here are some of the symptoms that may be manifested in bile duct problems.
- Pain in upper right side of abdomen. It may be due to cholecystitis meaning inflammation of the gallbladder or infection giving rise to cholangitis.
- Jaundice. Yellow discoloration of skin and eyes. This is due to excessive collection of bilirubin in the blood.
- Itching, all over the body due to rise in bilirubin level in the body.
- Change in color of urine from dark yellow to dark brown.
- Loss of weight and feeling of tiredness.
- Fever with chills.
- Clay colored stool.
- Constipation and loss of appetite.
Treatment For Bile Duct Diseases
The patient has to consult a gastroenterologist or a surgeon when there is bile duct problem.
- If there is pain or an infection caused due to impacted gall stone in the bile duct, the gastroenterologist usually uses an endoscope to remove the gallstone. The procedure requires experience and precision. It is called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.
- If the problem is due to scarring where the bile duct becomes narrow, with the same instrument and procedure a stent is inserted in the duct to keep the patency and easy flow of bile.
- In case of tumor, which is rare and difficult to find in early stage, palliative methods are adopted for restring bile flow. Radiation may effective to an extent, but it may not totally cure the cancerous growth.
- Conservative management of cholangitis and administration of antihelminthic agents are usual options for treating hepatobiliary Ascariasis.
- In most cases of blocked bile duct, itching is bothersome issue. Applying coconut oil in the area of itching seems to benefit.
- Drinking coconut water and barley water is beneficial. It helps to remove the excess collection of wastes from the body. Avoid eating fried and refined food.