Few people spend much time thinking about their gallbladder. Of course, when it functions properly, there’s little reason to. However, this pear-shaped organ is part of the digestive system, so it can cause significant distress when disease sets in.
The gallbladder can become plagued by several issues that fall under the general term “gallbladder disease.” Common conditions that fall under this term include:
- Gangrene or abscesses
- Functional gallbladder disorder (biliary dyskinesia)
- Gallstone pancreatitis
- Gallbladder and bile duct cancers
While each of these gallbladder issues are different, they often share the same symptoms.
Scott A. deVilleneuve, MD, of Surgical Associates of North Texas in McKinney, Texas, has treated many people with gallbladder issues. Whenever possible, he uses minimally invasive surgical techniques, but he’s also highly skilled in traditional approaches as well.
While gallbladder disease may not require surgery, ignoring a problem can result in potentially serious complications. If you notice any of these symptoms, Dr. deVilleneuve recommends scheduling an appointment for a medical assessment.
1. Abdominal pain
Your gallbladder lies on the right side of your abdomen, tucked beneath your liver. This small sack stores bile, the fluid your liver makes to digest food. When your stomach and intestines digest food, the gallbladder slowly releases bile through a tube connecting it to the liver and small intestine.
When gallbladder issues strike, it’s common to experience pain in the upper right abdomen or upper middle abdomen. Your symptoms can also radiate from the upper right abdomen into the shoulder or back.
For many people, pain occurs after consuming a fatty meal and worsens when drawing breath.
2. Digestive distress
Since the gallbladder is part of the digestive tract, it’s common to experience uncomfortable symptoms that include:
These symptoms typically occur because the body cannot break down fats properly, leading to digestive distress.
3. Fever and chills
You may not associate fever and chills with your gallbladder, but one-third of people with gallbladder disease experience fevers often accompanied by chills. These symptoms occur in response to inflammation in the organ, triggering feelings of illness.
For people experiencing cholecystitis, or gallbladder inflammation, half develop a fever of 100°F or higher.
4. Changes in bodily waste
Talking about what you leave behind in the bathroom may not be a favorite topic of conversation, but it can offer important clues to your overall health — especially your gallbladder.
If you’ve noticed your urine darkening or feces turning light brown or pale in color, it’s time to schedule an appointment. These telltale signs can indicate a gallbladder issue.
Finally, if your skin or the whites of your eyes take on a yellowish appearance, it could indicate gallbladder disease. This symptom develops when you have too much bilirubin in your system, a substance that typically moves through your bile ducts into the digestive tract so it can get eliminated from the body.
If you have a blockage that’s preventing bilirubin from passing through your system, it can build up in your blood and get deposited in your skin, causing jaundice.
While the gallbladder can cause several issues when things go wrong, you can also live a very long and healthy life without it. And, if you need your gallbladder removed, Dr. deVilleneuve can guide you through the process so you know what to expect every step of the way.
To see if you have issues with your gallbladder, or to get treatment if you do, call 972-525-0245 or book an appointment online with Surgical Associates of North Texas today.