The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver until it is released into the small intestine for the digestion of fat. Gallstones, among the most common gallbladder ailment, can cause obstruction and inflammation. The gallbladder tissue may also become tough, the muscles of the gallbladder may spasm painfully, or the gallbladder wall may perforate. Gallbladder symptoms in women are more common than in men, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, which indicates that women are twice as likely to have gallstones due to the female hormones progesterone and estrogen.
Gallbladder pain often begins as a mild pain in the upper middle part of the abdomen. It may also be felt to the right of the midline. The pain may radiate to the back or right shoulder. Depending on whether the pain is due to a stone in the gallbladder, a stone trapped in a duct or inflammation, it may be steady and continuous or episodic, occurring only after a fatty or large meal. Occasionally, pain that begins as mild discomfort becomes severe, accompanied by exhaustion, a fast heart rate, paleness and sweating.
A woman with an inflamed gallbladder may develop a fever and chills, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. This often occurs due to a gallstone or sludge blocking the duct that drains the gallbladder. Fever may also be the result of a gallbladder or duct infection.
When the gallbladder becomes inflamed, it may not allow bile to enter. This can cause bile intended for the small intestine to end up in the bloodstream, causing a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. The urine may appear cola-colored.
When a gallbladder problem stops bile from reaching the small intestine, the bowel movements may be clay-colored. The intestine will be unable to properly digest fat, causing it to be expelled in the stool, explains the text "Medical Surgical Nursing." This may make the stools appear frothy or oily. They may be foul-smelling and float on the surface.
A woman experiencing gallbladder disease may vomit or feel nauseated and lose her appetite. She may have a sense of fullness even though she hasn't eaten. She may have discomfort, belching or intestinal gas when she does consume a meal. Similarly, some women develop chronic diarrhea as the gallbladder becomes scarred due to chronic gallbladder disease, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- "Medical-Surgical Nursing"; Donna Ignatavicius, M.S., R.N. and Linda Workman, Ph.D., R.N.; 2002
- Penn Medicine: The Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery: Gallbladder Disease
- American College of Gastroenterology:What Everyone Should Know About Gastronintestinal Disorders in Women
- MedlinePlus: Gallbladder Disease
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gallstones and Gallbladder Disease - Symptoms