Gallbladder Disease Types, Symptoms and Diagnosis healthcare nt sickcare

What is Gallbladder? Types of Gallbladder Disease

What is Gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small sac located under the liver that stores and concentrates bile, a fluid that helps digest fats. The gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine through a tube called the bile duct. Sometimes, the gallbladder can develop problems that affect its ability to function properly. These issues are collectively known as gallbladder disease.

Types of Gallbladder Disease

There are different types of gallbladder disease, each with its own causes and symptoms. Some of the most common types are:

  1. Gallstones: These are hard particles that form in the gallbladder when substances in the bile (such as cholesterol, bile salts or calcium) crystallize. Gallstones can vary in size and number and can block the flow of bile through the bile ducts. This can cause inflammation and pain in the gallbladder or other parts of the digestive system.
  2. Cholecystitis: This is inflammation of the gallbladder wall, usually caused by gallstones. Cholecystitis can be acute (sudden and severe) or chronic (long-lasting and mild). Acute cholecystitis can lead to complications such as infection, abscess or gangrene (tissue death) of the gallbladder. Chronic cholecystitis can cause scarring and shrinking of the gallbladder over time.
  3. Acalculous cholecystopathy: This is a condition where the gallbladder does not empty properly due to problems with its muscle contractions or nerve signals. This can cause symptoms similar to those of cholecystitis without any evidence of stones.
  4. Gallbladder cancer: This is a rare type of cancer that starts in the cells lining the inside of the gallbladder. It can spread to nearby organs, such as the liver or pancreas. The exact cause of gallbladder cancer is unknown, but some risk factors include age, gender (more common in women), obesity, family history and chronic inflammation or infection of the gallbladder.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Disease

The symptoms of gallbladder disease depend on the type and severity of the condition. Some people may have no symptoms at all, while others may experience:

  1. Pain in the upper right abdomen that may radiate to the back, shoulder, or chest
  2. Nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, indigestion, or heartburn
  3. Fever, chills, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine or clay-coloured stools

How to Test for Gallbladder Disease?

If you have any signs or symptoms suggestive of gallbladder disease, you should consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, family history, lifestyle habits and medications. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination to check for any tenderness, swelling, or masses in your abdomen.

To confirm the diagnosis of gallbladder disease, your doctor may order some tests such as:

  1. Blood tests: These can measure your liver function, inflammation markers, bilirubin levels and other indicators of infection or cancer.
  2. Urine tests: These can detect any abnormalities in your urine such as blood, bile pigments or crystals.
  3. Medical history - The doctor will ask about symptoms like abdominal pain after fatty meals, nausea, vomiting, fever, and jaundice. Family history is also considered.
  4. Physical exam - The doctor will palpate the abdomen to check for tenderness, swelling, or masses that may indicate gallbladder disease.
  5. Imaging tests: These can provide detailed pictures of your gallbladder and surrounding organs using sound waves (ultrasound), X-rays (CT scan) or magnetic fields (MRI). They can also show any stones, tumours, inflammation, or blockages in your bile ducts.
  6. Endoscopic tests: These involve inserting a thin tube with a camera and light source through your mouth into your digestive tract (endoscopy) or through a small incision near your navel into your abdomen (laparoscopy). They can allow your doctor to see inside your gallbladder directly and take samples for biopsy if needed.
  7. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) - A scope is passed into the small intestine to inject dye into the bile and pancreatic ducts for x-ray imaging to reveal gallstones, tumors, bile duct anatomy.
  8. Biopsy - Removal of a tissue sample for microscopic analysis can confirm cancer or inflammation.
  9. Gallbladder function test - Nuclear medicine scanning assesses gallbladder emptying after ingestion of a fatty meal. Slow emptying suggests dysfunction.

Diagnosing gallbladder problems often involves blood work, non-invasive imaging like ultrasound, and possibly advanced procedures like ERCP if further evaluation is needed. These tests help determine appropriate treatment.

What is Gallbladder Stone?

Gallbladder stones, also called gallstones, are solid masses that form in the gallbladder from the buildup of bile components. There are two main types of gallstones:

  • Cholesterol gallstones - These are the most common type of gallstones. They form when there is too much cholesterol in the bile that can precipitate into crystals and solidify into stones.
  • Pigment gallstones - These form when excess bilirubin (a byproduct of red blood cell breakdown) accumulates in the gallbladder and calcium binds to it, forming stones.

Gallstones can range from microscopic to several centimeters in size. Many times gallstones do not cause any symptoms initially. But they can block the release of bile from the gallbladder leading to the following possible complications:

  • Gallbladder inflammation, known as cholecystitis
  • Irritation and inflammation of the gallbladder ducts, called choledocholithiasis
  • Pancreatitis due to gallstones blocking the pancreatic duct
  • Jaundice from gallstones obstructing bile flow into the small intestine
  • Infection in the bile ducts or gallbladder

If gallstones are asymptomtic, treatment may not be needed. But symptomatic gallstones causing pain and complications often require surgical removal of the gallbladder, called a cholecystectomy. Gallstones are one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. Risk factors include obesity, diabetes, liver disease, family history, rapid weight loss, and high-fat diets.

How do you know if your gallbladder is failing?

Symptoms of a failing gallbladder include intense and frequent gallbladder pain that lasts more than 5 hours, pain with fever or chills, yellowing skin or eyes, abdominal bloating, nausea, vomiting, clay-colored stool and unexplained weight loss. Imaging and blood work helps confirm.

What are the 3 main functions of the gallbladder?

The three vital gallbladder functions are to store bile produced by the liver, concentrate bile by absorbing water and dissolved salts, and release bile steadily into the small intestine to digest fats after we eat meals containing fats.

Can your gallbladder cause chest and back pain?

Yes gallstones, bile reflux or inflammation originating from your malfunctioning gallbladder may cause referred pain noticeable as shoulder blade, chest wall or upper back discomfort. The nerves of the diaphragm get irritation which feels like heart and lung region pain.

What type of surgeon removes gallbladders?

General surgeons, bariatric surgeons or surgical gastroenterologists typically specialize in performing cholecystectomies - the laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery. In tricky re-do surgeries or with extensive complications, hepatobiliary surgeons may tackle the gallbladder operation.

Role of healthcare nt sickcare in Gallbladder Diseases Management

healthcare nt sickcare is an automated online medical laboratory based in India that offers various lab tests online for patients at affordable prices. You can book lab tests online for yourself or your loved ones from without any hassle.

If you suspect you have gallbladder disease, you can book online blood tests for liver function, pancreas function and bile pigment levels from healthcare nt sickcare, an automated online medical laboratory that offers affordable and accurate lab testing services.


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