Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder disease refers to any of the various medical conditions that can affect your gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ located beneath your liver that stores bile. 

The most common symptom of gallbladder disease is pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. Depending on the type of disease, a person may also experience fever, nausea, vomiting, and/or jaundice. Diseases that affect the bile duct are also lumped under the term gallbladder disease.

There are generally two options when treating gallstones—a "watch and wait" approach or surgery. Other gallbladder or bile duct problems may require a more specialized procedure called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the symptoms of gallbladder disease?

    The most common symptom of gallbladder disease is pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, where the gallbladder is located. Depending on the type of gallbladder disease, symptoms may also include fever, nausea, vomiting, and/or jaundice.

  • What causes gallbladder disease?

    Gallstones form as a result of too much cholesterol or bilirubin (a pigment that is made in the liver when red blood cells are broken down), which are the most common causes of gallbladder disease. Having high cholesterol is one of the risk factors for developing gallstones.

  • How is gallbladder disease diagnosed?

    Your doctor will do a physical exam and blood tests if you are having symptoms that suggest gallbladder disease. An abdominal ultrasound is key to the diagnostic process. Sometimes other imaging tests, such as a CT scan or a HIDA scan, are necessary as well.

  • Is gallbladder disease hereditary?

    Research has indicated that there may be a genetic link, as the tendency to develop gallstones and gallbladder disease often runs in families. A mutation in a gene that controls the movement of cholesterol from the liver to the bile duct has also been identified, possibly leading to an increased risk of gallstones.

  • Can you have gallbladder disease without gallstones?

    Yes. When a person has normal blood tests, without evidence of inflammation or liver problems, as well as a normal ultrasound of the gallbladder with no evidence of gallstones, this is called functional gallbladder disorder.

Key Terms

Page Sources
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  2. McNicoll CF, Pastorino A, Farooq U, St Hill CR. Choledocholithiasis. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2020.

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Additional Reading