As often as you consume food, you probably don’t think about how it travels through your body to be digested and used as energy. As your food moves through the stages of digestion, it passes from one organ to another, each with its own role.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the organs involved in this complex process, the gallbladder.
Your gallbladder (a small pear-shaped organ) and your liver work together to help digest the food you eat. Your liver makes a liquid substance called bile, about half of which is stored in your gallbladder.
When you eat, your gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine through channels called bile ducts, and it’s there that it breaks down fats.
Any imbalance, infection, or blockage in and around the gallbladder can cause gallbladder disease. At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, our board-certified surgeons treat many patients with gallbladder disease.
Here are some of the most common gallbladder problems.
You’ve probably heard of gallstones, but what are they?
As we already discussed, your gallbladder normally stores bile to be released when needed to help digest your food. If you have gallstones, some of the bile stored in your gallbladder turns solid. Gallstones are composed mainly of cholesterol that formed into hard lumps.
Gallstones can be as small as a speck of dirt or as large as a golf ball. You might have only one large gallstone or many tiny ones. Sometimes gallstones don’t bother patients, but they can cause painful symptoms if they block the bile as it moves into, through, and out of the gallbladder.
The standard treatment for problem gallstones is removal of the gallbladder. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help right away:
- Severe pain in your upper abdomen that doesn’t abate
- Pain in the center of your abdomen
- Pain between your shoulder blades
- Pain in your right shoulder
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever or chills
Gallbladder inflammation: colic and cholecystitis
If you have bothersome gallstones, you may have experienced a case of biliary colic, which is when gallstones block the bile duct. You might feel a strong pain in the upper part of your abdomen near the rib cage. It subsides when the gallstones move and no longer block the passageway.
You may only have an attack of biliary colic once in a while. Eating a large meal or a lot of fatty foods can be triggers.
When bile can’t exit your gallbladder because of a blockage (often because gallstones stop the bile from exiting the gallbladder), the organ becomes inflamed, causing a chronic condition called cholecystitis. As a result, your gallbladder becomes red and swollen.
Antibiotics and pain medication are the standard treatment for cholecystitis, but if gallstones are the culprit, you need to have your gallbladder removed. It’s a very common surgery, and you can live the rest of your life without a gallbladder.
Always seek medical help when you’re in pain. If you delay too long, your gallbladder could tear. A perforated gallbladder can lead to widespread infection in your body. It’s a serious condition that requires immediate surgery.
Call one of our Houston, Texas, offices or book an appointment through our online portal today if you have unexplained digestive issues. We provide prompt, expert treatment.