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Signs & Symptoms of Gallbladder Disease

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: lrohner • updated: 10/18/2010

Cholecystitis, or gallbladder disease, is a painful condition that is potentially life-threatening and may require surgery to remove the gallbladder. Gallstones can be present in your gallbladder with no symptoms, but if the stones grow, you may notice gallbladder signs symptoms of disease.

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    Overview

    Gallbladder signs symptoms of disease begins when the flow of bile through your bile ducts is blocked by something inside, usually a gallstone. The initial stage of the disease may not cause obvious symptoms because the gallstones may be very small.

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    Pain and Location

    As you develop gallbladder disease, you may feel pain located in the upper right side of your abdomen. Because your gallbladder is located next to your liver, the pain is centered in this area of your upper abdomen if a gallstone is blocking the bile duct. The pain can radiate to your back and under your right arm.

    Gallstones develop when substances in your bile crystallize and form hard stones. These range from the size of a grain of sand and can get as big as a golf gall, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Because gallbladder signs and symptoms of disease are shared by other conditions, your doctor may have a hard time diagnosing your condition correctly.

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    After Meal Pain

    Because your gallbladder releases bile to help digest any fats you have just eaten, you may feel pain after meals. You may also notice that you can’t eat fatty foods without experiencing pain or getting sick.

    The bile duct is located between your liver and gallbladder. During a gallbladder attack, you may feel a tenderness around the upper right side of your abdomen. When the bile duct is blocked, your skin and eyes develop a yellowish cast called jaundice.

    If your doctor thinks you might have gallbladder disease, he may order an ultrasound to help him see what is happening with your gallbladder.

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    Gastric Issues

    Gallbladder signs symptoms of disease include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting during a gallbladder attack. You may not be able to tolerate fatty or greasy foods as your condition worsens.

    Women are more likely to develop gallbladder disease; if you are receiving hormone replacement therapy, you are at increased risk of developing gallstones. Being overweight and losing, then regaining weight puts you at increased risk of developing gallstones as well, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

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    Treatment

    Your doctor may decide to prescribe an oral bile acid, called ursodeoxycholic acid (Ursodiol), which dissolves smaller cholesterol stones. This medication is effective in only 40 percent of patients who take it. Your doctor may also try to inject solvents into your gallbladder or the bile duct to dissolve gallstones. These solvents are Methyl tert-butyl ether and monooctanoin (Moctanin).

    Removal of the gallbladder may be called for if you experience frequent pain and gallbladder attacks. You can easily live without your gallbladder as your liver can get bile to your intestines in other ways. Gallbladder removal is normally done using laparoscopic surgery, allowing for less invasive surgery, a shorter hospital stay and an easier recovery. Your gallstones can also be dissolved using shock wave therapy, called “lithotripsy,” according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

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    Resources

    http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/gallbladder-disease-000066.htm

    Gallbladder Disease

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/gallbladderdiseases.html

    Gallbladder Diseases