Gallbladder Dysfunction Symptoms

The gallbladder is a structure on the underside of the liver on the right side of the abdomen. The function of the gallbladder is to store bile that is produced in the liver before the bile is secreted into the intestines.

Gallbladder Dysfunction Symptoms

Asymptomatic cholelithiasis – The great majority of patients with gallstones have no symptoms at all. Stones in these patients are found incidentally during medical tests for other conditions.

Biliary Colic – For patients who do have symptoms, gallbladder symptoms can be variable. Classic gallbladder attacks consist of right upper quadrant abdominal pain, which is a pain just under the rib cage on the right side. The pain often radiates around the abdomen to the back and is associated with nausea and sometimes vomiting. The pain is severe and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours. Often this is followed by less intense soreness in the area that lasts for a day or so. Attacks are often instigated by a fatty meal. Gallbladder disease can also cause chronic nausea.

Gallbladder image

Cholecystitis – A more serious form of gallbladder disease, cholecystitis, is an infection or inflammation of the gallbladder often caused by obstruction of the cystic duct. The symptoms are similar to biliary colic but more prolonged. Patients can also have fever, chills, and an elevated white blood cell count.

Choledocholithiasis (common bile duct stones) – Stones can drop out of the gallbladder into the common bile duct. These stones often pass into the intestines without incident. Sometimes they can cause obstructions in the bile duct leading to jaundice and life-threatening infections of the bile ducts.

Biliary pancreatitis – When stones pass by the pancreatic duct the pancreas can be irritated leading to this potentially serious condition. Symptoms usually consist of mid-abdominal pain radiating to the back with nausea and vomiting.

Gallbladder Disease Treatment

In the majority of situations, gallbladder dysfunctions require surgical treatment. Most often gallstones are just a sign of the problem; treatment is directed toward the gallbladder rather than the gallstones. The treatment involves removing the gallbladder, as one can live a healthy life without a gallbladder. This is done in most cases using laparoscopic surgery. The surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a “cholecystectomy.” With laparoscopic cholecystectomy, you may return to work quicker, have less pain after surgery, have a shorter hospital stay, and have a shorter recovery time.

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