The gallbladder is a small organ located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen that stores bile, a liquid that aids in digestion. Bile is an enzyme produced in the liver that travels through bile ducts into the gallbladder, and when food enters the small intestine, the bile is released into the small intestine and aids the digestive process by breaking up fats. If the bile contains too much cholesterol, bilirubin, or bile salts small, hard crystallized stones form. Stones do not produce symptoms until it reaches a larger size or one blocks a bile duct.
Women experience gallstones more frequently than men. Other risk factors include being overweight, having type one diabetes, being over the age of 60, having rapid weight loss in a short time span, taking certain medications, high fat diet, and being pregnant.
Pain, especially after eating foods high in fat, that can be felt in the upper right abdomen that can radiate into the back. Other symptoms include:
- Dark urine and/or clay colored stools
It is estimated that 80% of people have no symptoms of gallstones and are only found during X-rays or other examinations.
When a gallstone blocks a bile duct it can cause inflammation and infection. It is marked by intense pain, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting. Pain lasting more than one or tqo hours, accompanied by fever should be considered a medical emergency.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Based on symptoms, your Cary Gastroenterology physician may order imaging tests to confirm the presence of gallstones. It is possible to pass a gallstone, without treatment, but in many cases surgery is needed to remove the gallbladder.