Gallbladder disease is one of the most common surgical conditions, affecting more than 20 million people in the United States.
Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the upper-right side of your abdomen. Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder.
Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people develop just one gallstone, while others develop many gallstones.
Signs and symptoms of gallstones:
People who experience symptoms from their gallstones usually require gallbladder removal surgery.
These signs and symptoms may include:
- sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen
- sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the center of your abdomen, just below your breastbone
- back pain between your shoulder blades
- pain in your right shoulder
- nausea or vomiting
If you are having symptoms as above, contact your primary care provider to discuss referral to see a surgeon at Western Surgical Group.
Seek immediate care in the emergency department if you develop signs and symptoms of a serious gallstone complication, such as:
- abdominal pain so intense that you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position
- yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes
- high fever with chills
Risk factors for gallstones
Many risk factors for gallstones are related to diet, while some factors are uncontrollable. Uncontrollable risk factors are things like age, race, gender, and family history, which can’t be changed.
|Lifestyle risk factors||Uncontrollable risk factors||Medical risk factors|
|being overweight or obese||being female||having cirrhosis|
|eating a diet that’s high in fat or cholesterol or low in fiber||being of Native American or Mexican-American descent||being pregnant|
|having rapid weight loss in a short period of time||having a family history of gallstones||taking certain medications for lowering cholesterol|
|having diabetes mellitus||being 60 years or older||taking medications that have a high estrogen content|
While medications can increase your risk of gallstones, don’t stop taking them unless you have discussed it with your doctor and have their approval.
How gallstones are diagnosed
If your doctor is concerned your symptoms are consistent will gallstone disease, he or she will order diagnostic tests that help your doctor see inside your body. These tests include:
Ultrasound: An ultrasound produces images of your abdomen. It’s the preferred imaging method to confirm that you have gallstone disease. It can also show abnormalities associated with acute cholecystitis.
Abdominal CT scan: This imaging test takes pictures of your liver and abdominal region.
Gallbladder radionuclide scan (HIDA scan): This scan takes about one hour to complete. A specialist injects a radioactive substance into your veins. The substance travels through your blood to the liver and gallbladder. On a scan, it can reveal evidence to suggest infection or blockage of the bile ducts from stones.