The gallbladder concentrates and stores bile until the liver needs it to aid in the digestion of fats. Frequently, this tiny organ causes more problems remaining in the body than if it never existed in the first place. “Pathophysiology: A 2-in-1 Reference for Nurses” states that the removal of the gallbladder or cholecystectomy, is commonly performed to cure chronic gallbladder disorders. Post-operatively, patients should follow a low-fat diet and reduce their intake of gas-producing foods in order to facilitate easy digestion.
The “Johns Hopkins Guide to Symptoms and Remedies” reports that gallstone formation, clinically known as cholelithiasis, results from an excessive cholesterol in the bile which forms solid masses. A less common disorder, hemolytic anemia (characterized by rapid death of red blood cells) may develop gallstones composed of bilirubin. Most gallstones present no symptoms and do not require medical intervention, however, when gallstones become large enough to cause blockage of a bile duct then inflammation ensues. Bile ducts become blocked, then fill with pus which results in bacterial infection. At this point, the gallbladder is best removed.
As bile ducts become blocked and inflamed, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and sclera around the eyes) may occur.
Gallstones increase the risk of gallbladder cancer, although occurrences often prove rare. Less than 10,000 new cases of gallbladder cancer are diagnosed each year according to the American Cancer Society. Gallbladder cancer has very few symptoms, therefore, it is usually not diagnosed until the advanced stages. Some signs and symptoms to note include itching around the area of the gallbladder, fever, nausea and pain in the upper right-hand quadrant of the abdominal region. Cancer of the gallbladder typically strikes the elderly population; if the cancer is discovered late, after age 70, it is usually inoperable in 75 percent of the cases according to the Johns Hopkins Guide.
The symptoms of gallbladder disease, clinically known as cholecystitis, typically manifest in a series of gastrointestinal and digestive issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, patients complain of constant nausea and vomiting with abdominal pain after every meal. Abdominal fullness, bloating, severe belching and flatulence are also common symptoms. Should the disease progress and form gallstones, fever and chills may ensue. The patient complains that they feel sick all the time. Weight loss may occur as a result of the constant nausea, vomiting and pain, and the patient's experiences a loss of appetite because of fear of reoccurring symptoms.
- "Complete Home Guide to Symptoms and Remedies"; Johns Hopkins; 2004
- "Pathophysiology: A 2-in-1 Reference for Nurses"; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gallstones and gallbladder disease - Symptoms
- The Mayo Clinic:Gallbladder Cancer: Symptoms