The gallbladder is one of the small organs of the gastrointestinal tract that many people don’t give much thought about until there is a problem. However, the gallbladder actually plays a vital role in the digestive process. Located just below the liver, the gallbladder stores bile from the liver and releases it into the small intestine via bile ducts to help break down food. It is especially important for the digestion of fats.
What is Gallbladder Disease?
Gallbladder disease can affect the gallbladder or the bile ducts, and it covers a range of conditions from inflammation to infections, stones or other blockages, and tumors. Types of gallbladder disease include:
- Inflamed gallbladder (cholecystitis)
- Perforated gallbladder
- Biliary colic
- Acalculous gallbladder disease (inflammation without gallstones)
- Bile duct infection
- Sclerosing cholangitis (narrowing of the bile ducts)
- Gallbladder or bile duct cancer
What are the symptoms of Gallbladder Disease?
Although it is possible to have gallbladder disease without any symptoms, one of the first symptoms that most patients experience is pain in the upper-right or central abdominal area. Pain can vary widely depending on the type of gallbladder disease and severity of the condition.
- Pain may be dull, crampy or severe.
- It may be intermittent, constant or worsen after eating.
- Some patients may also experience chest pain, pain that increases when breathing in or pain that radiates to the upper back.
In addition to pain, other symptoms of gallbladder disease include:
- Skin itchiness
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Weight loss
- Dark urine
- Excessive gas
- Light, clay-colored stools
Although good lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help keep your gallbladder healthy, you should seek medical attention if you begin experiencing pain or other symptoms. Diagnosis is the first step to treating gallbladder disease, and it may include blood tests and diagnostic imaging like an ultrasound.
If you have symptoms of gallbladder disease or any other digestive problems, the GastroIntestinal Specialists can help. To schedule an appointment, call our clinic at (318) 631-9121.