Part of your digestive system, the gallbladder is responsible for storing the bile produced by the liver, then passing that bile through to the small intestine where it assists in the digestion of the fats we consume during meals. Like many other organs in the GI tract, the gallbladder can develop diseases as a result of inflammation, infection or stones. Recognizing symptoms can help you act quickly and seek much-needed medical attention and lifestyle modification – it could be gallbladder disease or something equally of concern. The most common gallbladder diseases and their symptoms include –
Gallstones are cholesterol, calcium, and bilirubin deposits that can block the bile ducts. Cholecystitis generally is the result of these gallstones and is the most common form of gallbladder disease. While some patients with gallstones may not experience symptoms, in most cases gallstones cause severe pain located in the upper right-hand corner of the abdomen, and usually worsens after eating a meal. Some patients may develop a fever and feel nauseous or start to vomit; they may also become jaundiced. The symptoms of gallstones should not be ignored because they do share similar symptoms of tumors and other serious conditions.
Choledocholithiasis occurs when gallstones plug or become lodged in the bile ducts or neck of the gallbladder, thereby preventing the bile from traveling from the liver to the small intestine. Symptoms of choledocholithiasis include sharp pain in the middle of the abdomen, fever and chills, and vomiting. Jaundice is quite common as well, and stools may appear pale.
Chronic Gallbladder Inflammation
A chronically inflamed gallbladder means you continually experience gassiness, pain, and discomfort and/or diarrhea after eating; over time chronic inflammation can lead to a scarred or dysfunctional gallbladder with complications such as polyps, infection, gangrene or cancer.
This condition occurs when the gallbladder is not functioning as it should, and may be related to chronic gallbladder inflammation. Symptoms include pain, bloating and indigestion, most noticeably after consuming a meal that is heavy in fats. Unlike other gallbladder conditions, gallstones do not cause biliary dyskinesia.
There are factors that put you at risk for developing gallbladder disease, such as being over 40, overweight and/or diabetic. Being female and taking estrogen can increase your risk. Having an autoimmune disease, like lupus; having undergone heart surgery or having a severe bacterial or viral illness also increases your risk of developing gallbladder disease. Some hereditary factors may come into play, as does a diet high in fats and a sedentary lifestyle.
Polyps and Gallbladder Cancer
When polyps or lesions occur on the gallbladder, they could be benign or malignant. If they are benign, there usually are no symptoms but should be removed nonetheless. Malignant – cancerous – polyps and lesions are harder to treat and often go diagnosed until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. That’s why it’s so important to be seen by a gastroenterologist at first sign of any of the aforementioned symptoms or if you have risk factors.
North Shore Gastroenterology has been treating patients with GI issues in the greater Cleveland area since 1989. Our team of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other providers is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of all types of digestive disorders, including those of the gallbladder. We work to ensure a full understanding of your overall health and medical history, and will work with you and your primary care provider to develop a diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan. Call North Shore Gastroenterology today at (440) 808-1212 or request an appointment now.