The gallbladder is an organ which is situated in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, below the liver. The main function of this pear-shaped, sac-like organ is to store and secrete bile, which is a digestive enzyme manufactured by the liver. Gallbladder pain can be caused due to a variety of reasons.
It may be noted that bile is very important in the digestion of fat. In case the release of bile is severely affected by the presence of a gallbladder disorder, then the patient may experience gall bladder pain and other varied symptoms which may range from mild to extreme. It may also be noted that the symptoms associated with gallbladder diseases are similar to other medical disorders of the digestive system. Hence, misdiagnosis of the underlying condition is quite common.
Gallbladder pain location, what does it feel like ?
You may feel pain in the right side of the chest, below the rib-cage. The pain can also be located at the right shoulder blade, mostly in the back side. Other symptoms include belching, burping, vomiting and gas. The gallbladder pain below the rib-cage can be quite severe and you find it tough to walk. The shoulder blade pain can also be a sign, which can usually strike at the night. The gallbladder pain lasts from one to three or four hours. You should check with the doctor to exactly find out if the pain can be attributed to gallbladder pain.
Causes of gallbladder pain
The occurrence of gallbladder pain and associated conditions is common in older individuals. Also, women are more vulnerable to gallbladder disorders as compared to men. Gallbladder pain and the underlying conditions may not be dangerous in most cases. However, it can result in a lot of distress and discomfort.Gallbladder pain and malfunction can occur due to a number of causes, including liver disorders, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.
Contact with environmental toxins, obesity, intake of a diet that is low in fiber or a fatty diet, elevated levels of estrogen, etc. can also increase the risk to developing gallbladder pain and disorders.
Some of the common disorders which can result in gallbladder pain are listed below:
- Gallbladder sludge: It is an initial sign of gallstones. Gallbladder sludge refers to a combination of mucin, bile, and particulate substances like cholesterol crystals and calcium salts. It may or may not lead to gallbladder pain. The symptoms may occur when the sludge travels into the biliary tract and clogs the bile ducts. The jelly-like sludge may even harden and develop into gallstones, eventually causing gallbladder pain and inflammation.Affected individuals may experience nausea, pain in the abdomen, and vomiting. These symptoms will usually appear after intake of a fatty meal. Gallbladder sludge can cause complications such as inflammation of the bile ducts or the pancreas.
- Cholecystitis or inflammation of the gallbladder: It can be caused due to the presence of tumors, gallstones, blockage of the cystic duct, and scaring of the bile duct.In addition to gallbladder pain, patients may also elicit other symptoms such as pain in the right side of abdomen, vomiting, nausea, and bloating. Extreme cases of gallbladder inflammation can result in jaundice.
- Cholelithiasis or gallstones: It is one of the main causes of gallbladder pain. Gallstones are crystallized deposits which form in the gallbladder. They can be very small or as large as a golf ball. These deposits can consist of bilirubin, calcium, or cholesterol. A majority of patients may not experience any symptoms for several decades. The signs may occur when the gallstones obstruct the bile flow. Patients may experience discomforting group of symptoms associated with a gallbladder attack such as burping, sudden upper right abdominal pain which occurs in spasms, heartburn, belching, and nausea. Gallbladder pain associated with this disorder is called biliary colic. Such pain can persist for a few minutes or last for hours.
- Porcelain Gallbladder: It means calcification of gallbladder. It is caused due to recurrent or chronic cholecystitis which leads to scarring of gallbladder, eventually resulting in non-functionality and rigidity of the organ. The condition causes the gallbladder wall to turn brittle and hard. The wall may also elicit a bluish discoloration. Other symptoms of the condition include nausea, gallbladder pain, vomiting, and pain in the abdomen post meals.
- Choledocholithiasis: It is another cause of gallbladder pain. When a single or more gallstones are present in the common bile duct then the disorder is known as choledocholithiasis. This disorder can block the bile and the accumulated bile can then result in bile duct inflammation.Major symptoms of the condition include varied digestive issues and pain in the abdomen. It can also cause complications such as liver infection and acute pancreatitis.
- Acalculous Cholecystopathy: All gallbladder conditions which are not related to gallstones are known as acalculous cholecystopathy. Gallbladder abnormalities can be caused due to restrictive contraction of the organ, as well as abnormalities in the sphincter of Oddi.Associated symptoms of the condition include gallbladder pain, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, indigestion, nausea, flatulence, etc., which are often triggered by the intake of a fatty meal.
- Gallbladder Polyps:They are non-malignant growths which form on the gallbladder inner lining. Large polyps which cause gallbladder pain should be surgically removed. It is important to note that gallbladder polyps increase the susceptibility to gallbladder cancer. Symptoms include Pain in the abdomen, fever, jaundice, loss of weight, pale stools, and dark yellowish urine.
Treatment of gallbladder pain
Treatment of gallbladder pain is dependent on finding the underlying cause of the condition and then treating it.
Treatment includes drug therapy and other medical procedures. Severe cases of gallbladder conditions may require surgical removal of the organ.
Patients also need to undergo diet and lifestyle changes