Many symptoms are common across all gallbladder problems while some are specific to the condition at hand. To better understand signs and symptoms of gallbladder problems, it is important to understand the purpose of the gallbladder. Wikipedia describes the gallbladder as “a small organ where bile, (a fluid produced by the liver) is stored and concentrated before it is released into the small intestine”. Most gallbladder issues are initially indicated by pain in the upper right or middle abdomen. The most common symptoms of gallbladder problems are:

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Heartburn, indigestion, and excessive gas
  3. Sensation of fullness in the abdomen
  4. Vomiting or nausea
  5. Fever, shaking, and chills
  6. Tenderness in the upper right abdomen
  7. Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  8. Light or clay unusually colored stool

The specific location of abdomen pain and timing of onset may help in your diagnosis so be sure and discuss these specifics with your physician. Abdominal pain in the upper right abdomen extending up into the shoulder can be indicative of Cholecystitis or Biliary Colic. Both of these are related to Gallstones but pain from Cholecystitis can last much longer where relief from Biliary Colic usually comes within a few hours. If you have pancreatitis, your abdominal pain may be more centrally located and can be felt into the back. With any gallbladder problem, discomfort will likely increase after eating fatty or greasy food simply because bile is not as readily available to help in the digestion process.

Since many gallbladder problems are a result of gallstones, it is important to note a few associated risk factors:

  • You can thank your family for that one! If your direct family members have a history of gallstones, you have an increased chance of developing them yourself.
  • Obesity can cause an increase in cholesterol and hinder the gallbladder from emptying creating the ideal scenario for bile and cholesterol to harden forming a gallstone.
  • Higher levels of estrogen can cause an increase in cholesterol and hinder mobility of bile through the gallbladder. Expectant mothers or women who take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy often have higher levels of estrogen thus increasing their chance to develop gallstones.

Many people have little to no awareness of their gallbladder until it begins to cause pain. If you experience gallbladder symptoms you should seek the consult of a physician to receive prompt treatment. Gallbladder problems left untreated can turn into serious medical emergencies. Gallbladder attacks can be extremely painful and frightening. The American Gastroenterological Association suggests more than 25 million Americans have gallstones with 1 million new cases diagnosed annually.

If you cannot find relief from symptoms or you experience a sudden intensifying of pain or present fever, you should seek medical attention immediately.  Premier Surgical Associates is the largest surgical group in the Knoxville region, providing comprehensive surgical care, with referrals from across the entire East Tennessee Region. To learn more about Premier Surgical Associates visit our website.