The small pouch sitting right beneath the liver is called gallbladder. Its major function is to store bile produced by the liver. It is empty and flat like a deflated balloon after you eat, while before a meal it is generally full of bile and is of the size of a small pear.
There is a series of tubular ducts through which the stored bile is squeezed into the small intestine. It is the bile that helps in digestion of fats. And the gallbladder, even if removed causes no observable problems in a healthy individual. Sometimes diarrhea and fat malabsorption are noticed in people that have their gallbladder removed.
Gallstones: also called cholelithiasis, this is the most common and typically a harmless gallbladder disease that leads to pain, nausea, or inflammation. Gallstones form due to the crystallization of substances in bile.
- Cholecystitis: it is caused due to Infection of the gallbladder, generally because of gallstone/s. It usually leads to severe pain and fever and is cured by surgery.
- Gallbladder cancer: the cancer of gallbladder is quite tough to diagnose and usually found when the symptoms appear.
- Gallstone pancreatitis: in this, a gallstone blocks the ducts that drain the pancreas and leads to severe inflammation of the pancreas.
The variations in the pain of the gallbladder help the doctor to make a diagnosis.
- Biliary colic (intermittent duct blockage): in this, you experience a sudden and rapidly increasing pain in the right side of the upper abdomen or epigastric area. You may also experience pain radiating to the right shoulder. The symptoms also include nausea or vomiting along with pain.
- Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder tissue secondary to duct blockage): this again leads to severe steady pain in the epigastric area radiating to the right shoulder. Other symptoms include abdominal tenderness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and bloating.
- Pancreatitis: the symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen radiating to the back, abdomen tenderness, nausea and vomiting after eating.
Biliary colic, cholecystitis, gallstones, pancreatitis are the main reasons that cause gallbladder pain. The two major reasons for gallbladder pain include:
- If the gallstones block the ducts either completely or partially.
- If the duct blockage leads to gallstone sludge and/or inflammation
So mainly it is the gallstones that cause different diseases of the gallbladder. Below are some of the general factors that lead to gallstones:
- Generally, gallstones develop in females above 40 years. Pregnancy is also one of the risk factors.
- High cholesterol diets, refined carbohydrates as well as eatable consisting body fats like cheese, butter, and red meat also can cause gallstones.
- A sedentary lifestyle is also one of the risk factors of gallstones.
- Diabetes, cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, metabolic syndrome, and various other can cause gallstones.
Diagnosis or the lab tests required
- Abdominal ultrasound: in this test, a probe on the skin bounces high-frequency sound waves off structures in the belly and is considered to be a perfect test for detecting gallstones.
- HIDA scan or cholecystography: In this, a radioactive dye is injected intravenously and is secreted into the bile. The gallbladder disease cholecystitis is detected if the bile doesn’t go to the gallbladder through the liver.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): in this test a thin flexible tube is inserted through the mouth into the small intestine. This tube has a camera and a light which helps your gastroenterologist to see through and inject a radioactive dye into the bile system ducts. Not only this test detects gallstones especially in common bile duct , but also remove them from there with the help of some surgical tools.
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP): This test makes use of an MRI scanner to produce high-resolution images of the bile ducts, pancreas, and gallbladder. These images are used for further tests and treatments.
- Abdominal X-ray: Although they may be used to look for other problems in the abdomen, X-rays generally cannot diagnose gallbladder disease. However, X-rays may be able to detect certain gallstones if radiopaque .
Treatment and recovery time
- Gall bladder surgery (cholecystectomy): nowadays a laparoscopic gall bladder surgery that is minimally invasive is done to remove the gallbladder. Since it uses 3-4tiny cuts on the belly, it is less painful and requires a short hospital stay of 1 days. Whereas, in a traditional open surgery a single large incision is made for performing the surgery. It generally is painful and requires a larger hospital stay.
- Ursodeoxycholic acid: for all those suffering from gallstones, but are not good candidates of surgery, this oral medicine is considered as the best option. This acid dissolves small cholesterol gallstones and also helps in reducing symptoms and the time for which the medication is prescribed depends on the size of the gallstones present.