Berea, Ky. (May 23, 2017) – For many people, the gallbladder isn’t an organ in the body that you typically think about, unless it starts causing pain. Gallbladder problems can require immediate attention, which is why knowing symptoms of gallbladder pain is important. This month, KentuckyOne Health is encouraging the community to learn about the signs and symptoms of gallbladder problems, and when to seek medical attention.
The gallbladder is a 4-inch, pear-shaped sac that is located under the liver in the upper right section of the abdomen. The liver sends bile to the gallbladder, where it is stored to eventually help digest fat. When bile ducts are blocked or there is an issue with the gallbladder, pain and potential problems, such as inflammation, gallstones or polyps can occur.
The most common gallbladder problem people experience is gallstones – small, hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder. Gallstones affect nearly 20 million Americans annually, and severe cases can lead to the gallbladder rupturing, or even death. Common risk factors include obesity, rapid weight loss, and diets high in calories and low in fiber. Women, people over the age of 40, and Native and Mexican Americans are also more likely to develop gallstones.
“If you are experiencing gallbladder-related issues, it’s important that you seek help, even if the symptoms have passed,” said Mary-Ellen Shields, MD of KentuckyOne Health Surgery Associates. “A combination of symptoms can be a sign of a more serious infection that requires immediate medical attention.”
Pain in the mid- to upper-right section of your abdomen is the most common sign that there is a problem with your gallbladder. The pain can be mild to severe, and can sometimes be felt in other areas of the body, like the back and chest.
Nausea or Vomiting
Chronic gallbladder disease can result in digestive issues, such as nausea and vomiting. Additionally, acid reflux and gas may be experienced.
Fever or Chills
An infection of the gallbladder can result in an unexplained fever or chills. Infections can be dangerous and even life-threatening, so it’s important to seek treatment before the infection spreads to other parts of the body.
Chronic diarrhea/Unusual stools or urine
Someone experiencing a gallbladder problem may notice having more bowel movements during the day than what is normal. If this continues for several months, it can be a sign that there is a bigger problem – chronic gallbladder disease. In addition, a change in color in a person’s stool or urine is another sign of a gallbladder issue. If someone is experiencing a lighter-colored stool or dark urine, it’s important to consult a physician, as this is a sign of a bile duct block.
An additional sign of a bile duct block or stone is jaundice, or yellow-tinted skin.
“To help diagnose a gallbladder problem, a physician will conduct imaging tests of the gallbladder, tests to examine bile ducts and blood tests,” said Dr. Shields. “These tests will reveal signs of infection, gallstones, inflammation or other complications with the gallbladder.”
Treatment options for gallbladder problems may include removing the gallbladder, antibiotics to treat infections or medications that can sometimes provide temporary to break up the gallstones.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gallbladder problems, contact your physician to determine treatment options and how to decrease your risk for additional complications. To find a provider near you, visit chooseyourdoor.org, or call 888.570.8091.
About KentuckyOne Health
KentuckyOne Health, the largest and most comprehensive health system in the Commonwealth, has more than 200 locations including, hospitals, physician groups, clinics, primary care centers, specialty institutes and home health agencies in Kentucky and southern Indiana. KentuckyOne Health is dedicated to bringing wellness, healing and hope to all, including the underserved.