Common gallbladder diseases?

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The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, but can be affected by gallstones and other diseases. Gallstones can cause pain and other symptoms, and if they block the common bile duct or cystic duct, it can lead to serious health problems. Acute cholecystitis and pancreatitis can also occur.

Located below the liver, the gallbladder is a sac responsible for storing and concentrating bile. The most common conditions affecting this organ are caused by gallstones, which can block or slow the flow of bile from the organ. However, other diseases can also affect the gallbladder and are more common as men and women get older.

Gallstones, also called cholelithiasis, are made up of cholesterol or bilirubin that build up in the gallbladder. Many people don’t notice small ones, but if a stone grows larger than 0.3 inch (8 mm), it can cause pain and other symptoms. Gallstone disease often causes cramp-like pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. Other symptoms may include clay-colored stools, nausea, vomiting, excess gas, heartburn, and abdominal fullness. Women develop gallstones more frequently than men.

If a gallstone blocks the common bile duct or cystic duct, it can cause serious health problems. The gallbladder holds bile, a substance that aids in digestion, and sends it to the small intestine through the cystic duct to the common bile duct, which also connects to the liver. When one of these ducts is blocked, bile can build up in the gallbladder, causing a condition called choledocholithiasis. Jaundice and fever may occur, and hospitalization is usually required at this stage to break the stone or remove the gallbladder.

Acute cholecystitis is characterized by sudden inflammation of the gallbladder. This is also usually caused by gallstones and a backup of bile in the organ. Trapped and unable to flow properly, bile builds up in concentration, causing irritation and increased pressure. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fever. This condition can also cause the organ to become infected and can perforate, developing a hole. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an infection and the gallbladder may be removed.

If the lower end of the common bile duct is blocked, it can cause pancreatitis. This is when enzymes in the pancreas become active within the organ and cause pain, vomiting and internal bleeding. This condition requires immediate hospitalization.

Acute cholecystitis is a disease of the gallbladder that is not associated with gallstones. This inflammation can sometimes occur in patients suffering from or recovering from major illness, trauma, burns, vascular disease, or immune system deficiencies. While this condition is serious, it is also rare.

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