Unless they’re experiencing bothersome symptoms associated with gallbladder disease, most people don’t give much thought to their gallbladder. However, when there is an issue, it can be quite painful and require immediate action.
The gallbladder is a 4-inch-long organ found under the liver in the upper right area of the abdomen. It stores bile, a compound produced by the liver to digest fat, and helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. Unfortunately, when the gallbladder stops working properly or the bile ducts are blocked, it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
Some common gallbladder problems include:
- Gallstones – solid masses of cholesterol. Gallstones occur when high levels of fat and bile cause crystals to form. Over time, these crystals may combine and expand into stones.
- Inflamed gallbladder, cholecystitis – Acute or sudden cholecystitis occurs when bile can’t leave the gallbladder. This commonly happens when a gallstone blocks the bile duct. Chronic cholecystitis occurs if there are recurrent acute attacks.
- Perforated gallbladder – If left untreated, gallstones can lead to a perforated gallbladder – in other words, a hole in the wall of the organ can develop. Perforation also occurs as a complication of acute cholecystitis.
- Porcelain (calcified) gallbladder – a condition where, over time, the muscular walls of the gallbladder develop a buildup of calcium. This makes them stiff, limiting the gallbladder’s function and increasing the risk of gallbladder cancer. With this condition, the organ becomes bluish and brittle.
Symptoms of gallbladder problems include:
- Pain in the mid- or upper-right section of the abdomen: Gallbladder pain usually comes and goes. Gallbladder pain is often severe and can cause pain in the chest and back as well.
- Nausea or vomiting: Any gallbladder problem may cause nausea or vomiting.
- Fever or shaking chill: These are signs of infection in the body. Along with other gallbladder symptoms, fever and chills may point to a gallbladder problem or infection.
- Changes in bowel movements: Frequent, unexplained diarrhea can signal a chronic gallbladder disease. Light-colored or chalky stools may point to a problem with the bile ducts.
- Changes in urine: Dark urine may indicate a bile duct block.
- Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin occurs when liver bile does not successfully reach the intestines. This normally happens due to a problem with the liver or due to a blockage in the bile ducts caused by gallstones.
If you’ve been diagnosed with gallbladder disease in the Las Vegas area or are experiencing these symptoms, schedule an appointment with VIPSurg. Dr. Tsuda is the area’s foremost robotic surgeon specializing in gallbladder, weight-loss/bariatric, and other areas of general surgery. Call for an appointment at (702) 487-6000.