The gallbladder acts to store and concentrate bile and sends that bile down into the intestines to aid in the digestion of fats after a meal. Gallbladder symptoms arise when problems occur that prevent the gallbladder from serving it’s purpose. Patients can develop bloating, belching, fullness, nausea, vomiting, foul smelling gas and loose bowel movements.
The most common cause of gallbladder symptoms involves the development of gallstones. Gallstones develop when the bile becomes over concentrated and the water is absorbed leaving behind a solid stone. These stones can block the ducts of the gallbladder and prevent the bile from exiting when the body signals the gallbladder to squeeze. This often results in sudden onset of pain in the right upper abdomen or mid upper abdomen that can travel into the back in addition to the symptoms described above. This pain can last minutes to days, can be sharp or dull, and can worsen or improve over time depending on different factors. Sometimes the pain stops just as abruptly as it started. This can mean that the stone has bounced back into the gallbladder and is no longer blocking the duct or it can pass through the ducts.
The treatment for gallbladder disease related to gallstones is gallbladder removal or laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
Unfortunately, there is no good way to treat gallbladder problems without removing the gallbladder itself. Though gallstones are creating symptoms, they are created by a dysfunction of the gallbladder where it is over concentrating bile to the point where solids are being formed. The gallbladder will just make more stones with time and symptoms will persist. This is different from kidney stones which are not caused by an unhealthy kidney – in this circumstance there are other causes of stone formation and addressing these causes can sometimes prevent development of stones in the future. Additionally, the gallbladder serves a much less vital function and patients do very well without a gallbladder.
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