The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ beneath the liver. Its main purpose is to collect and concentrate bile, which is produced by the liver. After eating, bile is released from the gallbladder to help with digestion.
Gallbladder problems are usually caused by gallstones: small, hard masses in either the gallbladder or in the bile duct. These masses are made up mostly of cholesterol and bile salts. Women have a higher incidence of gallstones, but it is unclear exactly what causes them and there are currently no known methods of gallstone prevention.
Signs and symptoms of gallbladder disease may include:
- Severe, steady pain in the upper right part of the abdomen; or pain that radiates from the abdomen to the right shoulder/back
- Tenderness over the abdomen
- Sweating, nausea, vomiting, fever, or chills
- Abdominal bloating
Gallstones do not go away on their own. Some can be temporarily managed with drugs or by making dietary adjustments, but in general symptoms will continue unless the gallbladder is removed. Removal of the gallbladder is not associated with any impairment of digestion in most people.
Gallbladder removal is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States – and surgical removal of the gallbladder is the safest and surest route to recovery from gallbladder problems.
Talk to your doctor right away if you’re concerned that you may have gallbladder disease.