What are the signs of gallbladder problems?

The gallbladder is an organ of the digestive system that is located in the upper right side of the abdomen under the liver. The gallbladder is a hollow, pear-shaped sac that concentrates and stores bile, which is a digestive substance produced by the liver.

Gallbladder Problems Spotlight

Bile flows from the liver into the gallbladder for storage. When food is eaten, the gallbladder squeezes the stored bile into the cystic duct and down the common bile duct into the duodenum of the small intestine where bile helps digest food. Gallbladder symptoms are caused by diseases, disorders and conditions that damage the gallbladder, liver, and bile duct and interfere with digestion.

The most common gallbladder symptom is pain or tenderness in the abdomen, which may occur just after eating. This pain can manifest as epigastric pain just below the breastbone, generalized abdominal pain, upper right side abdominal pain, or pain that radiates around the right rib cage and into the back. It can also occur under the right arm in the center, in the chest, or in between the shoulder blades. A commonly used term for pain caused by blockage of bile flow from the gallbladder is biliary colic. Gallbladder symptoms can also include nausea, vomiting, jaundice, and a palpable abdominal mass or lump.

Gallbladder symptoms can be felt all the time or only after eating and drinking. Gallbladder symptoms can occur in women and men in any age group or population. Gallbladder symptoms can vary in character and intensity depending on the underlying cause and individual factors, and can appear suddenly or gradually build for weeks or months.

Many people have no symptoms and may be unaware that they have a gallbladder condition, such as gallstones or gallbladder cancer. In other cases, gallbladder symptoms may be mistaken for symptoms of other conditions, such as gastroenteritis, heart attack, hiatal hernia, indigestion, or a peptic ulcer. It is important to seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of gallbladder conditions, and refrain from assuming that they are due to a less serious condition, such as indigestion. Only a thorough evaluation by a physician or licensed health care provider can determine the cause of symptoms.

Left untreated, gallbladder conditions can lead to serious complications, such as tissue damage, tears in the gallbladder, and infection that spreads to other parts of the body. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for gallbladder conditions but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

In some cases, symptoms of a heart attack can mimic gallbladder symptoms. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, andsevere abdominal pain.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with gallbladder symptoms?

The hallmark gallbladder symptom is abdominal pain or tenderness. This can occur in the upper central abdomen (also called the epigastric area), the upper right side of the abdomen, or the pain can radiate from the abdomen to the right shoulder or back. Abdominal pain caused by gallbladder conditions often occurs minutes after consuming food or beverages. You may experience abdominal pain or te... Read more about gallbladder symptomssymptoms

CAUSES

What causes gallbladder symptoms?

Gallbladder symptoms are caused by gallbladder-related diseases, disorders and conditions, the most common of which is gallstones. In most cases, gallstones are caused by excessive amounts of cholesterol in the bile that is stored in the gallbladder. The cholesterol hardens to form stone-like structures. The medical t... Read more about gallbladder symptomscauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 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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