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Gallbladder Disease and Symptoms

Lone Star Family Health Gallbladder Disease and Symptoms Dr Chau Profile

What is Gallbladder Disease?

The gallbladder is not a commonly discussed organ. It is a sac that stores a bile, a fluid made by the liver, that is used to digest and breakdown fats from the food as it enters the intestine. It sits under the liver in the right upper section of your abdomen and usually works silently in the body to release bile when your body needs it. In some cases, there are things that happen to the gallbladder like gallstones, blockages, inflammation, and infection that lead to gallbladder disease.


One of the most common symptoms of gallbladder disease is pain. It may start as an intermittent pain in the middle to right upper side of the abdomen, but that pain can also radiate to the right shoulder blade, chest, and back. The pain can be constant but may also be intermittent pain that comes in go in spasm-like waves, often times triggered after eating a fatty meal. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever or chills, chronic diarrhea, jaundice, and changes to stool color, and bloating.


The most common cause of gallbladder problems are gallstones. Gallstones can form over time when excess bile products like cholesterol form, collect together and form lumps or stones. These gallstones can be present in the gallbladder without ever causing any problems, but if they shift and block the flow of bile out of the gallbladder or sit in one of the ducts that drain the bile, it can lead to the symptoms discussed above.

Other causes include gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) which can be from infection or the blockage of bile drainage. Complications of long-standing gallbladder inflammation include tissue death and perforation of the gallbladder. Additionally, inflammation of the network of drainage from the gallbladder into the intestine, known as biliary ducts, can also get inflamed.

Tests and Diagnosis

A healthcare provider will first discuss your medical history, family history, and in-depth review of symptoms. Typically, a physical exam will be performed to localize area of pain, swelling or skin color changes. Some blood tests may be ordered to evaluate for infection or inflammation and imaging may be required to visualize the gallbladder. Commonly, an ultrasound will be ordered first; however, other imaging modalities may be needed.


The history, symptoms, and test results will determine the best treatment. Pain management and antibiotics can be used in some cases; however, surgery is the only permanent solution to gallbladder disease.

If a condition requires surgery, most people can have the gallbladder removed through a minimally invasive surgery called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. There are some complicated cases that may require a different approach, and a general surgeon will determine the best approach on a case-by-case basis.

If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding your current health and symptoms, please contact your primary care physician.

Chau 2 (2)Dr. Chau is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.