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What are the Symptoms of Gallbladder Disease?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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Gallbladder disease can refer to a few conditions that affect the gallbladder. The most common types of gallbladder disease and disturbance occur when people have gallstones or when the gallbladder becomes inflamed. These are called cholelithiasis and cholecystitis, respectively. Moreover, with cholecystitis, the condition may be chronic, long lasting, or acute, short in duration. Acute episodes may be part of a chronic condition.

There are several indications of chronic gallbladder disease that may or may not occur with gallstones. One indication is pain, which is often felt on the upper right side of the abdomen, typically right below the lower ribs. People might also have pain that is felt in the shoulder. Pain can be felt for about an hour, and may increase and decrease, and it can be accompanied by gas, nausea, and throwing up. It typically occurs after eating, especially after eating foods high in fat.

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In acute forms of cholecystitis, pain is more pronounced but is still felt in the same place, on the upper right side of the abdomen, and it may get worse when people move. A temperature is usually present. Some people have chills, shaking, nausea, vomiting, and pain in the middle of the stomach or the chest too. These symptoms could indicate ongoing gallbladder disease or presence of infection in the gallbladder and they usually require hospitalization for pain relief and diagnosis. Symptoms typically last about 12-24 hours, and they are very severe. An acute episode of gallbladder disease may occur right after a meal, and it is usually associated with having consumed foods that are high in fat.

Another symptom of ongoing gallbladder disease can be jaundice. When the whites of the eyes and the skin have a yellow tinge, this suggests incorrect function of the liver, an organ with which the gallbladder cooperatively works. Jaundice may indicate disorders of the gallbladder or other conditions and it’s always important to have this symptom analyzed if it occurs.

People assume that gallbladder disease will always necessitate removal of the gallbladder. This isn’t the case. Avoiding fatty foods and changing diets in general help some people. Other people have true infections of the gallbladder and might require antibiotics to reduce inflammation. It is true that some individuals will need gallbladder surgery if many acute gallbladder attacks occur, and/or if gallstones are present and creating acute or chronic inflammation. Removing the gallstones usually doesn’t work because they have a tendency to recur.

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