Your gallbladder may be a small organ, but it can cause big problems. It stores bile, a substance produced by the liver, which your system uses to digest fatty foods.
The gallbladder can also become diseased, a catch-all term that describes various issues, such as gallstones, blockages, inflammation, or infection. When these problems arise, they can trigger a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Severe pain in the upper center or right part of the abdomen
- Pain that spreads from the upper abdomen to the right shoulder or back
- A feeling of fullness
- Rapid heartbeat and a sudden drop in blood pressure
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Lighter stools and/or dark urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
Unfortunately, gallbladder attacks often become a recurring problem. And, if you suffer from gallstones, this could damage your gallbladder, liver, or bile ducts, which are the narrow passages that connect these organs.
At Surgical Associates of North Texas in McKinney, Texas, Scott A. deVilleneuve, MD, uses both laparoscopic and traditional surgical techniques to perform gallbladder surgery. Here are a few benefits of undergoing this procedure if you have gallbladder disease.
Gallbladder inflammation — or cholecystitis — is often caused by a blockage in a bile duct. When digestive fluid can’t leave the gallbladder, it causes inflammation, which can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening complications, such as a gallbladder rupture.
The leading cause of gallbladder inflammation is gallstones, and between 1-3% of people with this condition develop cholecystitis. Additional causes of gallbladder inflammation include:
- Scarring in a bile duct
- Certain viral infections, such as AIDS
- Damaged blood vessels
Gallbladder surgery removes the organ and thereby puts an end to the inflammation.
One of the main symptoms of gallbladder disease involves sudden and severe pain, especially if gallstones are present. Gallstones can be anywhere in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. You can also have one or several at the same time.
Gallbladder attacks often occur as gallstones become stuck moving through a bile duct to the stomach, blocking bile flow and causing the gallbladder to spasm. This pain can be severe and feel like being cut by a knife. In some cases, it can even get confused with a heart attack.
Once a gallbladder attack begins, it can last several hours or days, and nothing can stop it until the gallstone passes. However, surgically removing the gallbladder will stop the pain and prevent recurrence.
Gallstones are a common problem in Western societies because of the prevalence of processed and fatty foods.
Two main types of stones can form in the gallbladder: cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol gallstones are the most common, and they primarily contain undissolved cholesterol. Pigment stones, on the other hand, form out of bilirubin, which is a pigment that is made when red blood cells break down.
It’s not known exactly why gallstones form, but it could be due to a variety of factors, such as:
- High levels of cholesterol in your bile
- Too much bilirubin in your system
- A gallbladder that doesn’t empty properly
You can, in theory, reduce your chances of developing gallbladder disease by maintaining a healthy weight, not skipping meals, and eating a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you need to lose weight, focus on a slow weight loss approach of 1-2 pounds a week, because rapid weight loss could put you at risk of forming gallstones. Realize, however, that just because you follow these guidelines there is still a chance that you can develop gallstones.
Once you have gallstones, there is not a medication or dietary change you can make that will reliably remove them. As such, you will most likely need gallbladder surgery to address the problem. Fortunately, once removed, you will no longer develop gallstones.
Do you have signs of gallbladder disease or need surgery? We can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Surgical Associates of North Texas today.