Gallbladder Disease


Your gallbladder can develop many problems, all of which can be labeled gallbladder disease. The major types of gallbladder disease are:

  • Cholecystitis: An inflamed gallbladder that can be either acute (a sudden, painful onset) or chronic (continual inflammation).
    • Acute cholecystitis is caused 90% of the time by gallstones. The other 10% of the time it is caused by tumors or various other illnesses.
      • Primary symptoms include pain in your upper right side or upper middle part of your abdomen. The pain can come right after a meal and range from sharp pangs to a dull ache. Pain can often spread to your right shoulder.
      • Secondary symptoms can be yellow eyes (jaundice), a full belly, different colored stools (clay colored, usually), fever, nausea, and vomiting.
      • Diagnosis: Foremost, your abdomen will likely feel painful to the touch. Medical professionals may also order blood tests (bilirubin levels, blood count, Amylase and lipase levels, and liver tests), ultrasounds, CT scans, X-rays, an oral cholecystogram, and/or a gallbladder radionuclide exam.
      • Treatment: If you are having severe abdominal pain, seek immediate medical attention. Often, medical professionals will advise removal of the gallbladder. However, there are many alternatives to removal that allow you to avoid surgery, keep your organs in place, and live a healthy, happy life. Please search this site for alternatives.

    • Chronic cholecystitis usually occurs after several acute cholecystitis attacks. Over time, the gallbladder walls thicken, and the gallbladder shrinks and loses its function of storing and releasing bile. It usually occurs because of gallstones.
      • Primary symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, and/or vomiting.
        Diagnosis: Your abdomen may feel painful to the touch, but often less so than with acute cholecystitis. Medical professionals may also order ultrasounds, CT scans, an oral cholecystogram, and/or a gallbladder scan.
      • Treatment: If you are having severe abdominal pain, seek immediate medical attention. Often, medical professionals will advise removal of the gallbladder. However, there are many alternatives to removal that allow you to avoid surgery, keep your organs in place, and live a healthy, happy life. Please search this site for alternatives.
  • Gallbladder Disease

  • Gallstones, or cholelithiasis, are small, rock-like materials that can develop in your gallbladder. Right below your liver is a small, pear-shaped organ – your gallbladder. When bile – the fluid stored in your gallbladder – gels and eventually hardens, it becomes gallstones. The liver manufactures bile to digest fats and stores it in the nearby gallbladder.

    • Primary symptoms include pain in your upper right side or upper middle part of your abdomen. The pain can come right after a meal and range from sharp pangs to a dull ache. Pain can often spread to your right shoulder.
    • Secondary symptoms can be yellow eyes (jaundice), a full belly, different colored stools (clay colored, usually), fever, nausea, and vomiting.
    • Diagnosis: Foremost, your abdomen will likely feel painful to the touch. Medical professionals may also order blood tests (bilirubin levels, liver tests, and pancreatic enzymes), ultrasounds, CT scans, X-rays, an oral cholecystogram, endoscopic ultrasound, and/or a gallbladder radionuclide exam.
    • Treatment: If you are having severe abdominal pain, seek immediate medical attention. Often, medical professionals will advise removal of the gallbladder. However, there are many alternatives to removal that allow you to avoid surgery, keep your organs in place, and live a healthy, happy life. Please search this site for alternatives.

     

  • Choledocholithias: Gallstones can become lodged in the neck of your gallbladder or in your bile ducts. When your gall bladder is plugged with a gall stone, bile cannot exit. Your gallbladder then can be come inflamed or distended. If your bile ducts are plugged, bile cannot travel from the liver and gallbladder to the intestines, potentially causing jaundice when your liver is filled with bile. Plugged bile ducts can also cause acute pancreatitis (see below).
    • Primary symptoms include extreme pain in the middle upper abdomen, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.
    • Secondary symptoms can include confusion, lethargy, low blood pressure, and pain in the right shoulder.
    • Diagnosis: Your abdomen may be tender to the touch, and your eyes and skin may become yellow (jaundice). Medical professionals may also order blood and urine tests (bilirubin levels, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, ALT and AST liver levels), ultrasounds, CT scans, a radio-nuclide scan, or an ERCP (described above).
    • Treatment can include gallstone removal in a ERCP, lithotripsy (sound waves to dissolve a stone), antibiotics, draining the common bile duct (biliary stenting), and surgery to remove the stone.

     

  • Acute Pancreatitis: While this condition can be caused by factors other than gallstones, when the common bile duct is plugged with a gallstone, the pancreas can become inflamed.
    • Primary symptoms are severe pain in your upper abdomen, vomiting, and fever.
    • Diagnosis: Upper abdomen is tender to the touch. Medical professionals may also order blood tests (pancreatic enzymes levels), ultrasounds, an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde CholangioPancreatography) test, or abdominal CT scans.
    • Treatment: When gallstone related, the gallbladder is often removed after the acute pancreatitis has subdued. Also, during the an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde CholangioPancreatography) test, a small scope can remove any gallstones stuck in the bile duct. (The scope is passed down your thoat into your small intestine and then up the common bile duct.)

     

  • Acalculous Gallbladder Disease or Biliary Dyskinesia: Gallbladder disease without gallstones. Like cholecystitis, it can either be chronic (all the time) or acute (sudden onset, occasionally just once). It may be caused by gallbladder muscles or the valve not working properly.
    • Primary symptoms are abdominal pain in your right side. The pain can sometimes spread to your right shoulder, and it often occurs after eating foods with a lot of fat in them.
    • Secondary symptoms include nausea, vomiting, bloating, and loose stools.
    • Diagnosis: As the symptoms of acalculous gallbladder disease (biliary dyskinesia) are the same as gallstone disease, you are first diagnosed for gallstones. When none are found through the common gallstone tests (blood tests, bilirubin levels, liver tests, and pancreatic enzymes, ultrasounds, CT scans, X-rays, an oral cholecystogram, endoscopic ultrasound, and/or a gallbladder radionuclide exam), then a CCK-HIDA scan is performed. In a CCK-HIDA (cholecystokinin dimethyl iminodiacetic acid) scan, a low level of radioactive materials are injected into your blood stream. The materials begins to collect in your bile ducts and liver. Then, your given CCK (cholecystokinin octapeptide,) the hormone that makes your gallbladder contract. A camera that monitors the low-level radioactive materials takes photos of your gallbladder contracting to see if it is working properly. If it is not, then having acalculous gallbladder disease (biliary dyskinesia) is confirmed.
    • Treatment. The most common treatment is a cholecystectomy, or removal of your gallbladder.

     

  • Sclerosing cholangitis is the inflammation, scarring, and damage to the bile ducts to and from the gallbladder, liver, and small intestines. It’s unknown what causes this disease.
    • Symptoms include weight and appetite loss, and an enlarged liver and spleen.
    • Diagnosis can be abdominal CT scans, ultrasounds, blood cultures and tests (elevated liver enzymes), and samples (biopsy).
    • Treatments include medications (vitamins D, E, A, and K; antibiotics, cholestyramine, ursodeoxycholic acid, and immune system suppressants) and surgery (endoscopic dilation, draining ducts, and transplants.)

     

  • Gallbladder cancer: Thankfully, gallbladder cancer is relatively rare. Its characterized by cancer of the inner walls of the gallbladder that then, if not treated, to the outer layers of the gallbladder and then on to other organs and ducts.
    • Primary symptoms are pain in the upper-right part of the abdomen.
    • Secondary symptoms can include fever, nausea, bloating, loss of appetite, weight loss, and jaundice.
    • Diagnosis: Tests for gallbladder cancer include blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRI’s. If gallbladder cancer is detected, further diagnoses take place to determine the reach of the cancer including exploratory surgery (laproscopy).
    • Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. The four stages of gall bladder cancer are:
      • Stage I: Here, the cancer is only in the inner layers of the gallbladder.
      • Stage II: Now, the cancer has expanded into the outer layer of the gallbladder and possibly other organs and tumors in lymph nodes..
      • Stage III: In the third stage, gallbladder cancer has spread to at least one more organ, and potentially veins and arteries.
      • Stage IV. The final stage of the cancer is where tumor have developed in other and far-reaching parts of the body.

     

  • Gallbladder polyps: Lesions or growths that occur on your gallbladder. They are usually harmless (benign.)
    • Primary symptoms are virtually non-existent. Polyps are usually only found during ultrasounds for gallstones.
    • Diagnosis: Usually discovered during ultrasounds for gallstones or other internal medicine issues.
    • Treatment: Only if they are larger than 1cm are they removed, often as part of the gallbladder. Occasionally they can be removed via laparoscopic surgery.

     

  • Gangrene occurs when the tissue of a particular organ die because of lack of bloodflow. Many things such as infections, injury, diabetes, surgery, or diseases related to blood flow can cause gangrene.
    • Symptoms can include pain in the gallbladder region, fever, nausea, gas, disorientation and low blood pressure.
    • Diagnosis: Medical professionals may conduct blood tests, CT scans, X-rays, or an arteriogram. They may also conduct a surgery to “get a better look.”
    • Treatment: If the gallbladder has gangrene, it is removed.

     

  • Abscesses are any area of the body that is inflamed with pus. Your body tries to fight an infection with white blood cells. Occasionally, they can accumulate into pus – white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria. Abscesses can form from your body fighting parasites, bacteria, viruses, and even foreign substances.
    • Symptoms can include pain in the gallbladder region and inflammation.
    • Diagnosis can be abdominal CT scans, ultrasounds, blood cultures and tests, and samples (biopsy).
    • Treatment can consist of surgery to drain the abscess, but is most often removal of the gallbladder.
  • Other issues are congenital defects and tumors.

Each type of gallbladder disease has its own specific treatment. Be sure to search our website for tips on eating a healthy gallbladder diet and using gallbladder recipes which are beneficial for all types of gall bladder disease.

18 Responses to Gallbladder Disease

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  9. Jane Crawford says:

    My husband had a nucelar scan last week which showed a 4% function. Can This be controlled with diet or is surgery the only cure. He cannot get in to see a surgeon until later in the month. We have an overseas trip planned for later this weekend. Should he travel. We have been doing the diet and he states he is not currently having problems

  10. Gallbladder Help Admin says:

    Hi Jane, I will email you as well… What symptoms has he had that had him get a nuclear scan? Was there any indication of what type of gallbladder issues your husband may be having? That will likely determine if diet or surgery can solve the issues. Regardless, he should certainly stick to a healthy gallbladder diet — low fats (but a few good ones like avocados and flax seed oil), no dairy, no meat except fish (ocean salmon is pretty good because of the high omega-3′s), lots of water, and lots of vegetables. Some specific great foods are apples, artichokes, beets, and cucumbers. (The rest of our site has extensive information on diet for gallbladder issues.) I also think where you’re traveling too makes a big difference in case something goes poorly. I’ve traveled extensively and have been in great hospitals in Thailand, India, and Zambia, and have great reviews of people that have been in hospitals in Europe (not to mention all of these are way cheaper than hospitals in the US, if that’s where you’re from,) but, just to be safe, I’d do a little research to see how things look there — just to be safe. I hope this helps!

  11. margerat says:

    hiya, my husband is having chemo at the moment nut today has had an ultrasound and they told us his gall bladder was filled up with something but they dnt know what it is apart from its not gallstones…wat could this possibly be? thanks for help

  12. Gallbladder Help Admin says:

    Hi Margerat, it’s possible that it’s gallbladder “sludge” which is not hardened gallstones, but close. Check out our section on gallbladder diet ideas. By changing his diet and adding in some foods like apples, radishes, beets, and cucumbers, he may see some improvement. If he’s having chemotherapy right now, doing a gallstone flush will probably be too hard on him, but down the road, that may be something to consider. It worked well for me!

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  15. darlene says:

    I have been diagnosed with debris in my gallbladder and to be rechecked again in 6 months. But I have had one attack already and I have pain every day. What is debris? Also can a gallbladder problem such as this cause trigger points? I have pain in my back as well as around right ribs.

  16. Gallbladder Help Admin says:

    Hi Darlene, usually “debris” refers to small particles that aren’t quite large enough to be classified as gallstones. It can also be called “gallbladder sludge.” You will likely experience symptoms similar to gallbladder attacks — and it sounds like you’re already having them. Pain on the right side of your body around your lower ribs is right where your gallbladder is. Pain in your back is a symptom as well. Eating fatty and processed foods will trigger this pain. Fish and chips? A burger and fries? Bam, you’re likely going to have some pain and tightness there. My suggestions are to a) change your diet (this website covers that in detail) and b) to do some gallbladder flushes. Those two things have completely eliminated my gallbladder pain for the last 10 years! …and I still have my gallbladder. Hope this helps!

  17. D says:

    I have went to a naturopath dr and she gave me some capsules to take and chlorophyll and lecithin. I have been using the dietary tips and did a week long cleanse where I took the lemon juice and olive oil every morning. I still have a degree of tightness in the front as well as my back every day. It is not just after eating something fatty…which I will not do now…(except good fats like avocado or olive oil..)

  18. Gallbladder Help Admin says:

    Hi there, have you added in other items such as turmeric, apple cider vinegar, cleavers tea, etc? Keep us posted and go through this site, we have lots more remedies you can use!

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