What is cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is the medical name for inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder assists in the digestive process by storing and releasing the substance called bile into the small intestine, which helps break down food. Cholecystitis is most often the result of an obstruction within a duct in the gallbladder. Gallstones (cholelithiasis) are the most common cause of obstruction within the gallbladder. Left untreated, the inflammation may lead to infection. Other less common causes of cholecystitis include infection, injury and tumors.

Inflammation of the gallbladder is a common disease in the United States. The disease is more common in women than in men, and it occurs most frequently after the age of 40. There are two types of cholecystitis: acute, which comes on suddenly, and chronic, which is longstanding and persistent. Gallstones are the most common cause for both types. Recurrent episodes of gallstones lead to thickening of the gallbladder wall and make the gallbladder less effective at removing bile and other substances. Ultimately, the condition may become chronic.

The signs and symptoms of cholecystitis can come and go or remain constant. The disease course varies among individuals. Some people with cholecystitis have no symptoms at all, while others may have severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and blockage of the bile ducts that may lead to infection.

Acute gallstone attacks can be managed with intravenous medications. If repeated episodes occur and lead to chronic cholecystitis, the preferred treatment is surgical removal of the gallbladder. Although not everyone is able to prevent gallstone formation and cholecystitis, you may be able to reduce your risk by following a healthy, low-cholesterol diet.

Left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to serious complications, such as tissue damage, tears in the gallbladder, and infection that spreads to other parts of the body. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), severe abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, and nausea with or without vomiting.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for cholecystitis but your symptoms persist, recur, or cause you concern.


What are the symptoms of cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis causes a backup of bile in the gallbladder that may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of cholecystitis

You may experience cholecystitis symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these cholecystitis symptoms can be severe:


What causes cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is caused by multiple factors, including obstruction of a bile duct by gallstones, infection, injury, or tumor. The most common cause of cholecystitis is cholelithiasis, or gallstones, that cause obstructions in the bile ducts. Cholecystitis caused by infection, trauma and tumors can result in possible blockage and perforation of the gallbladder.

When acute cholecyst... Read more about cholecystitiscauses


How is cholecystitis treated?

Treatment for cholecystitis begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have cholecystitis, your health care provider may ask you to provide blood samples and undergo diagnostic tests.

Although acute cholecystitis may resolve on its own, it is more common for people with cholecystitis to be hospitalized and given Read more about cholecystitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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