Most people never think about the function their gallbladder, but it's an important organ that helps your body digest fats. If your gallbladder isn't working properly, you can develop gallstones that trigger a variety of symptoms.

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hard deposits that form in your gallbladder, a small, pear-shaped organ located in your upper right abdomen just below your liver. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. You can develop hundreds of small gallstones, one large gallstone or both. These hard stones are made up of salt, cholesterol or bilirubin, discarded red blood cells.

woman in abdominal pain


Many people with gallstones have no symptoms. These silent gallstones don't interfere with gallbladder, pancreas or liver functions. When gallstones block the bile ducts, pressure builds up in the gallbladder resulting in pain that can lasts from one to several hours. Pain from a gallbladder attack can be quite severe and complications can develop if the bile duct remains blocked. Once the gallstones move and unblock the bile duct, the pain usually stops. If gallstones become lodged in the bile duct or block the pancreatic duct, inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis, can occur. It left untreated, these blockages can be serious and even fatal.

If you think you're having a gallbladder attack, it's important to seek medical attention right away, especially if accompanied by the following symptoms which can indicate inflammation or a serious infection in the gallbladder, pancreas or liver.

* Nausea and vomiting
* Abdominal pain that lasts more than four or five hours
* Fever or chills
* Tea-colored urine
* Light-colored stools
* Jaundice (yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes)


If you have gallstone symptoms or a gallbladder attack, you need to see a doctor who specializes in digestive diseases. Once you have had one gallbladder attack, it's very likely that you'll have more unless you get treatment.

The normal treatment for gallstones is surgery to remove the gallbladder, unless the gallstones can be dissolved. Surgery to remove the gallbladder, called a cholecystectomy, is a common operation performed by certified surgeons at Bay Surgical Specialists. Unlike other organs, the gallbladder is not essential to live a normal, healthy life. When the gallbladder is removed, bile that is usually stored there flows out of the liver through bile ducts and empties directly into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine.

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