Located in the right abdomen under your liver, the gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, a substance made by the liver to help with fat digestion. Normally, the gallbladder does its business without fuss, and you’re unaware of its contributions.
But things can go wrong. There are several types of gallbladder disease, each of which can cause pain of varying severity and which can also radiate away from the location of the gallbladder.
In cases where gallbladder function is permanently affected, you may require laparoscopic surgery to remove the organ. At Eastside Bariatric and General Surgery, surgeon Aliu Sanni, MD, FACS, specializes in minimally invasive, robotically assisted gallbladder surgery.
Recognizing the symptoms
Symptoms of gallbladder disease vary depending on the type of condition you have.
This is the mildest of the gallbladder disorders, with an intermittent pain in the upper right abdomen, about the bottom of the ribcage. Pain can be severe, and it often radiates to a patient’s upper back. Some can experience it behind their breastbone.
The pain can be severe enough to cause nausea and vomiting.
This inflammation of the gallbladder results from a blockage of the bile duct in the gallbladder, causing it to swell. Acute cholecystitis typically comes on with sudden and intense pain, lasting 12 hours or more. Your skin can take a yellow cast, and you may notice abdominal swelling.
As well as nausea and vomiting, fever could be present. Episodes usually pass within a week.
Chronic cholecystitis stems from long-term inflammation. It’s usually not as painful as the acute version, and it’s not normally accompanied by fever.
Both types of cholecystitis can cause serious complications, including gallbladder tears or ruptures, infection, and necrosis of gallbladder tissue.
The most common type of gallbladder disease is gallstones. About 20 million American adults have gallstones, with 70% of them being women. You can have gallstones without direct symptoms from them, though they can still cause blockages that lead to biliary colic or cholecystitis.
When they do create pain, it’s on the right side of the abdomen between the belly button and rib cage. Pain can spread to the side of the abdomen or to the shoulder blade.
Pain can last for several hours, and you may feel contractions as the gallbladder attempts to push the stone through the bile duct.
Nausea, vomiting, and fever are common, as is the yellowish coloration of skin and the whites of the eyes. Your urine may become dark, while stools change to a pale color. Your skin may become sweaty and itchy.
Risk factors for gallbladder disease
Your risk of gallbladder problems increases when you:
- Are over 60
- Have a family history of gallstones
- Are female
- Have diabetes
- Are overweight
- Take estrogen for hormone therapy
- Have a condition that affects intestinal absorption, like Crohn’s disease
- Have liver problems, such as cirrhosis
There are other conditions that can trigger gallbladder issues, but these occur less frequently, often without the presence of gallstones.
Gallbladders rarely develop cancer, but gallbladder polyps larger than one centimeter have a greater chance, and they’re generally removed when discovered.
If your gallbladder issues develop to the point where you need a surgical solution, contact us today at our Snellville, Georgia, office to arrange a consultation. Minimally invasive outpatient surgery can remove the risk of further pain from this sometimes troublesome organ.