Robert Burakoff, MD, MPH, is board-certified in gastroentrology. He is the vice chair for ambulatory services for the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, where he is also a professor. He was the founding editor and co-editor in chief of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
Gallbladder disease refers to any medical condition that affects your gallbladder, a small organ under your liver that stores bile. The most common symptoms of gallbladder disease are abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and yellow-tinted skin (jaundice). There are generally two options when treating gallstones—a "watch and wait" approach or surgery.
A swollen area in body tissue that is filled with pus. When the gallbladder becomes inflamed, it is called cholecystitis. A potential complication of acute cholecystitis is when the gallbladder is ruptured or perforated, causing a pericholecystic abscess.
A yellow-green, thick, sticky fluid that helps with digestion by breaking down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed by the digestive tract. Bile is made in the liver and then stored in the gallbladder.
A painful obstruction that results from an abnormally functioning sphincter of Oddi. The sphincter of Oddi is a muscular valve that controls the flow of digestive juices and bile from the liver and pancreas to the small intestines.
An inflammation of the gallbladder. Symptoms of cholecystitis include pain in the upper center or right abdomen that can extend to the right shoulder or back, bloating, fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal tenderness.
The presence of stones within the common bile duct. Treatment for choledocholithiasis is a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), in which a flexible tube with a light on the end called an endoscope is passed through the mouth, the esophagus and the stomach, and into the first part of the small intestine.
Hard stones that are made of crystallized cholesterol, pigment, or a mixture of the two. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. When gallstones cause symptoms, the gallbladder is usually surgically removed.
The death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow or a serious bacterial infection. This is the most common complication of cholecystitis, especially in older people, people with diabetes, or people who delay seeking treatment for a gallbladder attack. Gangrenous cholecystitis is considered a medical emergency, requiring surgical removal of the gallbladder.
An imaging test that allows for the visualization of bile movement through the bile duct system when an ultrasound is not sufficient. A radioactive tracer is injected into a vein, then taken up by liver cells and into bile.
A small growth protruding from a mucous membrane. Gallbladder polyps are sometimes found incidentally during a routine abdominal ultrasound or following cholecystectomy for gallstones or biliary colic. Most gallbladder polyps are benign, but in some cases, they can be cancerous.
A chronic inflammatory disease of the gallbladder and liver, causing bile acid to accumulate, often resulting in debilitating itching. Primary sclerosing cholangitis causes cirrhosis of the liver, and eventually the liver loses its ability to function.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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