Home Life & People Is That Pain The Sign Of A Gallbladder Attack? What You Need To Know About That Tiny Organ:

Is That Pain The Sign Of A Gallbladder Attack? What You Need To Know About That Tiny Organ:

6 min read

Most of us give little thought to the gallbladder, a pear-sized organ that sits just under the liver and next to the pancreas. The gallbladder may not seem to do all that much. But if this small organ malfunctions, it can cause serious problems. Gallbladder disorders rank among the most common and costly of all digestive system diseases. By some estimates, up to 20 million Americans may have gallstones, the most common type of gallbladder disorder.

Your gallbladder stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine. Your gallbladder is most likely to give you trouble if something blocks the flow of bile through the bile ducts. That is usually a gallstone. Gallstones form when substances in bile harden. Rarely, you can also get cancer in your gallbladder.

Gallstones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. The gallbladder can develop a single large gallstone, hundreds of tiny stones, or both small and large stones. Gallstones can cause sudden pain in the upper right abdomen. This pain, called a gallbladder attack or biliary colic, occurs when gallstones block the ducts of the biliary tract. Pain in the right upper or middle upper abdomen for at least 30 minutes may signal a gallbladder attack. The pain may be constant or cramping. It can feel sharp or dull.

Other symptoms may include yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice); clay-colored stools; and, nausea and vomiting.
Gallstones are more common in women, Native Americans, Hispanics, people over age 40, and people who are overweight. Gallstones may also run in families.

In most cases, though, people with gallstones don’t realize they have them. Gallstones that do not cause symptoms are called asymptomatic, or silent, gallstones. Silent gallstones do not interfere with the function of the gallbladder, liver or pancreas.

You may need this surgery if you have pain or other symptoms from gallstones. You may also need surgery if your gallbladder is not working normally. The surgery takes about one hour. Gallbladder removal is called a cholecystectomy. The gallbladder isn’t an essential organ, which means you can live normally without it.

Most of the time, surgery is not needed unless symptoms begin. However, people planning weight loss surgery may need to have gallstones removed before undergoing the procedure. In general, people who have symptoms will need surgery right away or soon after the stone is found. If left untreated, a blocked main bile duct and gallbladder can become infected and lead to a life-threatening situation.

Gallbladder cancer is rare. Having gallstones increases the risk of getting gallbladder cancer, but most people with gallstones do not get gallbladder cancer. The causes of gallbladder cancer are not well known. While the gallbladder may not be the star of the digestive system, it still plays an important role. You can treat it well by maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, and the little bag of bile should do its job. Don’t ignore pain or symptoms, and see your doctor if you’re in discomfort, especially after eating.

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