5 Signs You Have a Gallbladder Problem

Most people don’t give much thought to their gallbladders until something goes wrong. This small, pear-shaped organ is situated just beneath the liver. It stores bile, a digestive fluid needed to absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. 

Sometimes the gallbladder becomes inflamed or develops hard, pebble-like gallstones. When this happens, you’re likely to have symptoms. If you recognize the signs of gallbladder issues, discuss them with one of our digestive specialists at Illinois Gastroenterology Group.

What is the gallbladder?

Situated in the upper right area of the abdomen, the gallbladder is a small pouch that collects and stores bile. Eating food that contains fat triggers the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the intestines via bile ducts. 

The gallbladder is similar to a balloon. Before a meal, it is about the size of a small pear. After you eat, the gallbladder deflates and flattens. So when your symptoms occur after eating a fatty meal, that’s the telltale sign of gallbladder problems.

Five signs of gallbladder problems

Knowing the warning signs of gallbladder problems can help you recognize when it’s time to seek evaluation and treatment from a gastroenterology professional. 

Five of the most common signs of gallbladder problems are:

  1. Pain: Belly pain is the most prominent symptom of gallbladder issues. The pain is most often felt in the upper right section of the abdomen and typically occurs after a meal. Eating foods that are very fatty may cause more severe pain.
  2. Nausea: Feeling nauseated after a meal is another common symptom of gallbladder problems. Chronic gallbladder issues are more likely to cause nausea. This is usually a sign that you may need surgery to remove your gallbladder.
  3. Pale stools: Gallbladder issues commonly cause changes in stool color. Bile contributes to stool’s normal color. When you have gallbladder problems, stool may appear pale due to a reduction in bile. Gallstones or other gallbladder problems can reduce bile flow.
  4. Vomiting: If you experience vomiting, it is certainly time to seek advice from a surgeon. Vomiting can be a sign of long-standing gallbladder problems.
  5. Fever: Having a fever along with gallbladder symptoms is a more serious warning sign. Fever may indicate infection and requires immediate medical attention.

When does the gallbladder need to be removed?

You may need gallbladder surgery if you experience ongoing symptoms. Left untreated, gallbladder issues can cause health complications. Gallstones can block bile ducts, trigger inflammation in the pancreas, and the gallbladder can even rupture. Surgery to remove the gallbladder, also called cholecystectomy, is the primary treatment for chronic issues.  

How is the gallbladder removed?

There are two types of procedures to remove the gallbladder: open and laparoscopic. Our gastroenterologists at Illinois Gastroenterology Group specialize in laparoscopic gallbladder removal, which is the most common approach. 

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves making several small incisions in the abdomen. Then a thin tube with a light on the end and other medical instruments are used to access and remove the gallbladder.

Open gallbladder surgery is sometimes necessary in certain circumstances, such as when patients have had a previous abdominal surgery. In open cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes a single, larger incision in the abdomen to remove the gallbladder.  

Chronic gallbladder problems don’t go away on their own. If you experience digestive symptoms such as discomfort or pain after eating, or any of the other symptoms we’ve discussed, visit our board certified gastroenterologists here at Illinois Gastroenterology Group for an evaluation. 

We have offices throughout the Chicago suburbs in Oak Lawn, Palos Heights, and Oakbrook Terrace. Our team members are standing by to schedule your appointment. Give our office a call or book your visit online today. 

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