What does a Gallbladder Do?

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The gallbladder is a small organ situated near the mid-abdominal area of the body. What does a gallbladder do?

Its primary function is to store the bile that comes from the liver. Bile is a substance that helps in the digestion of fat. Fat does not dissolve in water, so to emulsify fat something special is needed. The liver produces the bile and then stores it in the gallbladder until the body needs to digest fats. When this moment comes, the gallbladder starts to let the bile flow down into the intestine, inside the duodenum, where fat is digested with its help and then absorbed by the organism.

While bile sits in the gallbladder, the water from it pours out through the gallbladder’s walls, making the bile more concentrated and therefore more efficient. Bile also neutralizes some of the acids that are found in certain types of food.

 

What can go wrong with my gallbladder?

Just like every other organ in the body, the gallbladder can malfunction and cause illness. At some people, usually, women that are over forty years of age, but there have been quite a large number of cases of men suffering from gallbladder too, the bile inside it can crystallize into small stones, called gallstones. Gallstones are made of salt, calcium, and cholesterol; all put together in a small stone. These gallstones can cause some problems, starting with the inflammation of the gallbladder and ending with severe pain and blockage.

In three-quarters of the patient’s gallbladder does not cause any visible symptoms, but in one-quarter, something appears.

These are the most encountered symptoms of the gallbladder disease:

-Variable pain in the abdominal area. Variable because this pain is sometimes easy, sometimes very severe, and sometimes it lasts long, at times it doesn’t.

-vomiting accompanied by temperature

-yellow-ish skin and eyes, when a gallstone obstructs the canal through which bile flows from the liver into the gallbladder

-Biliary colic. These are pain attacks. They can be felt in the upper right part of the abdomen, sometimes even in the back. This is a very severe pain and lasts for almost an hour. It can be associated with vomiting, nausea. Although these attacks are frequent, they can also be triggered by eating fat foods.

-Inflammation of the gallbladder. This can generate into an infection if not treated in time. It can cause a lot of pain and fever. If this condition lasts more than one day, the smart thing to do is see a doctor.

Common conditions related to gallbladder;

1. A gallbladder attack, a condition due to swelling or inflammation in the gallbladder,
2. Stone formation (gallstones) which can block of obstructing the flow of bile,
3. Gallbladder cancer.

Fortunately, gallstones can leave the body by themselves, but in some cases, they get stuck on the way and obstruct the flow of bile. If this happens, surgery is required. The gallbladder surgery is called cholecystectomy, and it consists of a procedure that removes the gallbladder from the body and connects the liver directly to the stomach, so bile does not pass through it anymore.

This causes the fat substance digestion to be less effective.
In the most unfortunate cases, complications lead to gallbladder cancer. This can happen if someone suffering from the gallbladder disease has weight problems and also smokes and drinks a lot. Gallbladder cancer is a fatal illness, although advanced surgical techniques attempt to remove it most of the patients with gallbladder die.

Gallbladder disease is in most cases almost harmless, but if you feel any of the symptoms, you should visit a doctor and listen to his advice. Patients that have been operated of the gallbladder and had it removed can soon return to their normal lives, but they need to pay attention to the quantity of fat that they eat because without the gallbladder the body can’t handle the fat substance digestion to well.

Conclusion

In conclusion, conditions that affect gallbladder health are more likely to occur as you get older. Individuals who are having stomach or upper abdominal pain may want to be checked for gallbladder problems. For those who have severe issues, the only recourse may be an operation and full removal of the gallbladder. This is because gallbladder trouble often reoccurs once it starts. Since you don’t need your gallbladder to live, doctors sometimes prefer to remove it rather than waiting for more pain.

Reasons for Gallbladder Removal

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You might have been thinking about some reasons for gallbladder removal these days because you have real problems with this part of your body. We will let you know more about what you can expect from this process over time. So read on because you will get a lot of answers to your questions in no time.

What is involved?

Your surgeon will have to create a large incision in your abdomen to remove your gallbladder right away. This process is also called open cholecystectomy. This will fix the problem associated with the pain experienced by a patient with gallstones inside his or her gallbladder.

This is truly a useful procedure and you will not have to be in a hospital for many days. You might not need to be on a bed for too long. So you don’t have to worry too much about this type of surgery because a lot of people have experienced the same.

You will find your gallbladder right on your liver`s underside. This is a small organ that you can spot with the right tools. The purpose of this organ is bile storage. Bile is a substance that helps your body break down fat. Your body can normally digest anything you want without the gallbladder. The bile will reach your small intestine but it will not be stored in any place.

Reasons to Remove the Gallbladder

The bile might be thick causing tons of blockages along many patterns where the substance commonly empties. Your gallbladder is also a place where gallstones can easily take place. These are just small deposits of some substances that just get stuck inside the gallbladder. This type of problems can cause a lot of pain in your abdomen. Some infections might just take place causing nausea, bloat, and other problems right away.

Your doctor will recommend surgery if you have a chronic problem or an acute one. Your physician will also take a close look at some symptoms that might reveal that you suffer from a problem in your gallbladder such as bloating and nausea.

The Process

You will have to deal with an intravenous line in your arm. This will be done to inject anesthesia into your body. You will also have to put on a hospital gown. You will be in the middle of a painless sleep when surgery starts. You will be cleansed with an antiseptic substance to reduce any risk of infection. This substance will be put on your stomach.

Then, your doctor will make a short incision right on your stomach. Your physician might choose two incision types here. He or she might create an incision on the right of your stomach, or you might have an up-and-down cut on the upper section of your stomach.

The gallbladder will be exposed when your muscle, skin, and other parts of your body are just pulled back. Your gladder will be removed right away. Then, he or she will bandage the area after closing your wound with some stitches. So you will be inside a room of operations for around an hour, but you should not worry too much about it because this process is truly straightforward. This process might also take longer, but it just depends on how big the problem is. You will have to return to your room when the surgery is finished.

After

They will also keep an eye on your vital signs till you are released home. If your vital signs have just stabilized, your physician will get you out of the institutions with a smile on his face. You should also show strong clinical signs of your recovery for this to happen though. If you have to endure an open procedure, your stay at the hospital might just be longer down the road too. This is because your doctor will not want you to experience any kind of excessive pain or bleeding after the surgery is over as well.

Conclusion

So you need to be prepared to deal with this process because you will have to endure a lot of things down the road. Your physician will let you know what you have to do so you can have all the good results that you need to get today. So take action and get what you need out of this process today.

Gallbladder Symptoms And Gallstones

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Symptoms Of Gallstones In Gallbladder:

 

Certain typical symptoms that could signal the presence of gallstones are,

Food Indigestion:

A person who has gallstones might experience indigestion problems such as nausea, abdominal pain, excessive gas, tight feeling in the abdomen due to bloating and abdominal discomfort. Although these symptoms might indicate the presence of gallstones they could also be caused due to other infections and diseases. It is therefore important that one consults a doctor about their symptoms first.

Pain In The Upper Abdominal Region:

Gallstones may cause severe pain in the upper abdomen. The pain  may be last for about 40 minutes or may even continue for a number of hours. One may also experience severe and sharp pain in the area under the right shoulder. The pain may also be followed by mild soreness in the abdomen. In some cases though one may also experience pain in the lower abdominal area as well

Other Symptoms:

Other symptoms may include a feeling of uneasiness in the stomach, vomiting, belching, chills and even fever.

Symptoms Of Gallstones In Bile Duct:

Gallstones may also occasionally enter the common bile duct which is formed by the convergence of the two hepatic ducts and the cystic duct. The hepatic ducts and the cystic ducts carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder. Typical symptoms that might indicate an obstruction of the bile duct are yellowing of skin and eyes, fever and colored stools.

 

An individual who experiences all or any of these symptoms should consult a doctor immediately as it could indicate a gallbladder attack.

 

Next: Causes of Gallstones

Gallbladder Attack and Gallstones Causes

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Gallstones Causes:

Bile is a greenish liquid that is released from the liver and concentrated in the gallbladder to aid in the digestive process. The bile stored in the gallbladder is released into the digested food to breakdown the fat present. Gallstones are formed when there is a chemical imbalance in the bile present in the organ. There are two types of gallstones that may be formed cholesterol stones and pigment stones. These gallstones in turn cause gallbladder attack.

Cholesterol Stones:

Cholesterol gallstones are formed when there is an excessive amount of cholesterol present in bile and not sufficient amounts of bile salts present. Cholesterol stones are yellowish in color are the most common occurence of gallstones. Bile salts present in bile are responsible for dissolving the cholesterol brought in by the liver. However if there is an excess amount of cholesterol that cannot be dissolved by the bile salts, it could cause the cholesterol to crystallize into gallstones.

Gallstones can also be formed and cause gallbladder attack if the gallbladder empties out infrequently or if there is a decrease in it’s contraction . A decrease in the organ’s contraction would cause an increase in bile concentration and ultimately cause gallstones to form. Eating at random hours or skipping meals may also cause a decrease in it’s contraction.

Pigment Stones:

People who suffer from diseases such as liver cirrhosis, blood disorders, and biliary tract infections may develop pigment gallstones. Pigment gallstones are dark colored stones caused due to excessive amounts of billirubin present in bile. Pigment gallstones account for about 15% of all gallstones diagnosed.

Gallstones may also  obstruct the flow of essential enzymes that aid in the digestive process. These enzymes are produced in the pancreas and if the obstruction persists it can cause an inflammation of the pancreas . (pancreatitis). The gallstones may also obstruct the flow of bile from the gallbladder and cause gallbladder disease.

Other factors such as a family history of gallbladder attack, being overweight, aging, diet and use of certain drugs may put people at risk of developing gallstones. Diets that constitute high amounts of fat and cholesterol can cause gallstones due to the increase in cholesterol in the bile. Elderly people who are above 60 years of age may also develop gallstones as their liver may discharge an increased amount of cholesterol into the bile.A deficiency of melatonin  could also cause gallstones.

 

Next read about gallstone risk factors

Gallstones – Risk Factors

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People At Risk:

 

Some of the reasons that may put people at a risk of developing gallstones are

 

Gender:

Women in general are at a higher risk of developing gallstones than men due to their hormone levels. The female hormone estrogen significantly increases the discharge of of cholesterol into the bile. Pregnant women are also a a risk of developing gallstones due to the increase in estrogen levels during pregnancy.

 

Being Overweight:

People who are overweight and fat generally have higher amounts of cholesterol in their bile. Due to this their chances of developing gallstones are naturally higher. Gallstones are therefore less likely to form in people who are fit and thin than in obese people.

 

Rapid Weight Loss:

Sudden and rapid weight loss may affect a person’s gallbladder causing it to compress and empty out cholesterol less frequently. It is therefore advisable to lose weight gradually and slowly without putting your body into shock. It has also been observed that individuals who have undergone bariatric or gastrointestinal surgery are at a very high risk of developing gallstones in the gallbladder.

Age:

Age is also an important factor in which elderly and older people are more susceptible to develop gallstones than younger and healthier people.

 

Crohn’s disease:

Crohn’s disease, a condition in which the intestines get inflamed may also facilitate the formation of gallstones. This happens because the terminal ileum gets diseased and hence the bile salts that are essential for the solubilization of cholesterolare not absorbed properly into the body.

 

Also people affected with hemolytic anemia, cirrhosis of the liver and biliary tract infections may develop pigment gallstones which occurs when there is an increased load of bilirubin on the liver.

 

Next read about gallstones diagnosis

Gallstone Diagnosis | How are Gallstones Diagnosed

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In the diagnosis of gallstones a doctor would usually perform a physical examination of the patient and check and see if there is a jaundice of the skin or the white portion of the eyes. If there is any indication of a possible occurence of gallstones, further tests such as blood tests are carried out to determine the white blood cell count or if there are abnormal levels of bladder or pancreatic enzymes. It’s important to understand; how are gallstones diagnosed?

The following tests may also be carried out in the diagnosis of gallstones:

CT Scan (or) Computerised Tomography scan:

 

In this procedure, a scan of the internal organs is taken and through a series of computer generated x-rays a detailed picture of the gallbladder as well as other organs can be clearly seen.

Ultrasound Test:

Unlike an X – Ray, in an ultrasound test sound waves are used to produce an image of the gallbladder as well as other organs in the body. This particular test is quite effective in detecting gallstones in the gallbladder as well as locating gallstones in the bile duct.

HIDA Scan:

 

In this scan the presence of gallstones are detected by sending a small quantity of radioactive tracer material is sent through the veins of the patient. A scan is then done to check and see if the radioactive substance has reached the gallbladder.If it hasn’t reached the gallbladder, then it is quite likely that a gallstone is blocking the path  (Cystic Duct and restricting the movement of the radioactive substance.

ERCP Test:

This particular test is done to find out where the gallstones are present and how to remove them. In this procedure an endoscope is sent down the patient’s throat into the stomach and upto the upper region of the small intestine. Air is then pumped in to expand the intestinal tract thus enabling a much clearer view of the bile and pancreatic ducts. If a gallstone is found to be caught in the ducts a special instrument may be inserted through the endoscope to remove the gallstone.

Endoscopic Ultrasound:

 

An endoscopic ultrasound is usually done when the stones are located in the common bile duct. In an endoscopic ultrasound a transducer is kept at the tip of the endoscope which is then inserted into the throat and through the stomach  Due to the close proximity to the bile duct, an endoscopic ultrasound would result in much better images in comparison to a normal ultrasound.

Next read about gallbladder complications

Gallbladder Complications

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Some of the complications that may result from gallstones are;

Obstruction Of The Common Bile Duct:

The duct that extends from the gallbladder to the small intestine is known as the common bile duct. When this duct is obstructed, it can eventually lead to jaundice and also cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Other complications such as Cholecystitis ( inflammation of the gallbladder ) and Cholangitis ( bile duct infection ) may also occur as a result of bile duct obstruction.

Inflammation Of The Gallbladder:

This condition is also known as cholecystitis and occurs when there is a blockage of the bile duct by a gallstone. The condition is characterized by secretion of fluid from the gallbladder followed by inflammation. One may also experience pain in the upper abdominal region as well as fever and abdominal tenderness. Treatment for cholecystitis is usually given through antibiotics and the condition will usually resolve within a week.

Gangrene:

Due to the inflammation caused in cholecystitis, blood supply to the gallbladder may be cut off. With no blood flowing into the gallbladder, its tissues will soon die and hence weaken the surrounding walls.The weakness caused by lack of blood supply may eventually lead to rupture of the gallbladder. This condition is known as gangrene.

Pancreatitis:

When the junction of the bile duct and pancreatic duct is blocked by a gallstone, it can cause an inflammation of the pancreas. This is known as pancreatitis. A person affected with pancreatitis may experience pain in the upper abdomen, back and even the chest. This may also be accompanied by vomiting and fever. Pancreatitis will usually resolve in a couple of days if the condition is mild but if it is severe it can even be deadly.

Sepsis:

If bacteria present in the gallbladder enters into the bloodstream, it can spread to other parts of the body through the blood. This can lead to the infection of healthy tissues followed by the formation of pus filled abscesses. Sepsis is characterized by  fever, chills and elevated white blood cell count.

Gallbladder Cancer:

Cancer of the gallbladder is a very rare complication and is seen in less than 1% of people diagnosed with gallstones. Researchers are not sure whether gallstones are the cause of gallbladder cancer but it is believed that gallstones reduce the quantity of bile output from the gallbladder and hence the cells are exposed to cancer causing substances present in the bile for an extended period of time. This is turn could lead to gallbladder cancer.

Next read about gallstones treatment

Gallbladder Treament | Without Surgery, With Surgery, Apple Juice?

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Gallstones usually don’t produce any symptoms and under such conditions treatment is usually not given. However if the gallstones do cause pain and other symptoms, surgery or various other non surgical procedures may be done. In some cases though doctors may even recommend surgery for gallstones that do nor produce any symptoms. However this is quite rare.

 

The surgical procedures that may be carried out to remove gallstones are:

 

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy:

This is the usual method of treatment that is done for gallbladder removal. In this procedure a thin instrument called a laparoscope which has an inbuilt video recorder is sent down into the abdomen. The view captured by the recorder is then transmitted onto a clear television screen allowing the doctor to view the surgery in greater detail. Gallbladder removal is then done laparoscopically through small incisions of the abdominal wall. Cholecystectomy is usually successful most of the time but in some cases there may be severe complications such as injury to the bile ducts causing leakage of bile which could eventually develop into an infection.

Open Cholecystectomy:

An open cholecystectomy is done when the condition is serious or if the abdominal walls are very thick. Unlike a laparoscopic cholecystectomy which is performed through small incisions, an open surgery is done through a large incision.

Sphincterotomy:

A Sphincterotomy is usually done when a gallstone is caught in one of the bile ducts (hepatic or common). The procedure involves surgically cutting the common bile duct’s sphincter muscle with a small instrument, which is sent down through an endoscope. After the the muscle is cut open, other instruments may be sent down as well to collect the gallstone or to squash it. Just like a cholecystectomy, sphincterotomy may also result in complications such as injury to the bile ducts, bleeding (or) even pancreatitis, a condition in which the pancreas gets inflamed.

Non Surgical Treatment:

Non surgical treatment procedures are usually not as effective as surgical ones and are recommended when surgery is not a viable option due to certain health conditions.

 

Here are some of the non surgical treatment options:

Actigall Tablets (or) Oral Dissolution Therapy:

These bile salt tablets are usually prescribed to disintegrate small cholesterol stones but they may not be effective if the stones are large in size. Even in small stones these tablets are only effective half the time and they may need to be taken for a number of years in order to prevent a reoccurence. Actigall is therefore usually recommended for individuals who face certain health risks from gallbladder surgery.

Shock Wave Lithotripsy:

This non surgical procedure is done when the gallstones are stuck inside the bile ducts. In this procedure short energy waves are produced and are directed towards the gallstones. The energy waves break up the gallstones into tiny pieces which eventually drain into the intestines and out of the body. This procedure has also known to be effective against pigment stones as well.

Drug Injection:

In this procedure, the drug methyl – teryl – butyl – ether is injected into the gallbladder to disintegrate the cholesterol stones that have formed there. This procedure may cause certain compications and is not widely available yet.

 

Next: gallstone prevention 

Gallbladder Prevention

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The following are some of the ways in which  one can prevent gallstones from forming.

Eat Regularly:

It is important that one eats their meals regularly in order to prevent gallstones from forming. Try to avoid foods that are high in cholesterol and also be sure to eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and other foods that are rich in fiber and calcium. Skipping meals can also contribute towards the risk of gallbladder disease and gallstone formation.

Stay Fit By Exercising:

If you spend a lot of time sitting down and not moving about, you should take some time to exercise for at least half an hour everyday. Studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce the chances of gallbladder disease.

Don’t Lose Too Much Weight:

Excessive weight loss over a short period of time can increase the risk of gallstones. Being obese and overweight can also increase your chances of developing gallstones and it is therefore necessary to maintain a healthy amount of weight. If you are looking to lose weight, it is safe to lose about 2 pounds a week. Exercise is important and can keep your gallbladder healthy for years to come.

Birth Control Pills:

In women, studies have shown that taking an increased amount of birth control pills may contribute towards gallstone formation. You should therefore talk to your doctor if you are taking these pills.

 

Next: Read about gallbladder surgery 

Gallbladder Surgery | Complications and Removal After Surgery

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Surgery And Removal:

 

A diseased gallbladder or gallstones may be removed through a laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure air is first sent into the abdomen to expand it and then a laparoscope is inserted into the region near the navel. The laparascope has a small video camera attached to it which helps the surgeon to see the the gallbladder on a huge TV screen. However before the gallbladder is removed an X-ray procedure called intraoperative cholangiography may be doneto view the structure of the bile duct system and to check for the presence of gallstones in the common bile duct. After the X- ray is done, the surgeon would then make incisions and use his surgical tools to remove the gallbladder.

Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is usually the preferred procedure for removal of gallbladder but in some cases an open surgery may be done instead. Infact about 20% of all laparoscopic surgeries in the US are switched to an open surgery. This may be due to reasons such as sudden inflammation, tissue damage or bleeding. After surgery is completed you may experience certain side effects such as pain in the shoulder and the belly region for a couple of days due to the air that was sent in prior to surgery.  Muscle pain, diarrhea, and lack of hunger may also be experienced. These side effects and discomfort should clear within a week or two.

Compared to an open surgery, a laparoscopic cystectomy is generally preferred because after gallbladder surgery the recovery time is much quicker and the scars are also much smaller and hence less visible. Recovery from laparascopic gallbladder surgery would take about a week whereas in the case of open surgery it may about about a month. However the procedure does not remove gallstones present in the common bile duct. If gallstones are present in the comon bile duct, a procedure known a endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may be done.

Complications from a laparascopic gallbladder surgery are very rare but they can occur. Possible complications include injury to the bile ducts and blood vessels, internal damage, bile leakage, liver damage and bleeding.

Next: Read about gallbladder diet