How much do you know about gallbladder in your body? Or do you not know at all? Continue reading and the secret will be revealed.
Gallbladder is a pear-shaped pouch hidden beneath your liver, which, in other words, is situated at the upper right side of your abdomen. It certainly has its own function but surprisingly, it is one organ human can survive without!
From the picture above, you can see the green coloured pouch, yes, your gallbladder, is connected to a tube (cystic duct) in which it receives fluid from the liver above and drains it down to your intestine.
The liver produces and releases bile, a kind of yellowish to dark greenish fluid that eventually will be stored in gallbladder. When you eat, the gallbladder will contract and release the fluid content (bile) into your intestine to digest the fat component of your diet, including fat soluble vitamin A, D, E, K.
So, what possible things could happen to your gallbladder?
Gallstone! Who says you cannot have stone(s) in your body? Gallstone is a solid structure formed when one of the component of the bile (usually cholesterol or bilirubin) is in excess and becomes too concentrated and eventually forms a hard stone.
Too much of food with high calorie, refined carbohydrates like white bread and white rice, and low fibre do not sound like a good idea after all.
Cholelithiasis is the medical term for stones in the gallbladder. Gallstone can be as tiny as sand or as huge as a tennis ball. You can have one large gallstone or multiple tiny gallstones in your gallbladder. But as long as the stones are inside the gallbladder, nothing will happen, it will not produce any symptom.
The real problem arises when the stone is stuck in one of the tubes. Sometimes gallstone migrates to the cystic duct and causes pain in your abdomen (biliary colic) when the gall bladder tries to contract to release the bile into the intestine. Typically, the pain comes suddenly and usually persists for 2 hours, especially after meals. Pain is usually felt at the upper middle and upper right region of your abdomen, sometimes even your right shoulder.
Obstruction of duct may also cause inflammation of the gall bladder (cholecystitis). The exact mechanism is not known but it is believed to be chemically induced. The wall inside the gall bladder will then be damaged, and thus secretes toxin. You will suffer from abdominal pain at the same region as mentioned above, but this time with fever, sometimes even yellowish discoloration of your skin.
If the inflammation affects your pancreas (acute pancreatitis), another organ next to your gallbladder, you will suffer from sudden abdominal pain at the upper middle region, which feels like a knife stabbing through your abdomen to the back of your body.
Another possible disease is gallbladder cancer but it is in fact very rare. It is considered one of the complications of gallstone formation.
Who is at risk for having gallstones?
- All the beautiful ladies out there should take note of this! It is proven that women are more prone to developing gallstone disease because women have extra estrogen hormone in the circulation which will increase the cholesterol level in the bile. Also, pregnant ladies have to be careful because of the same reason.
- Older age
- Obesity/ overweight
- Diet with high cholesterol and low fibre
- Rapid weight loss (when you fast for too long, body starts to break down the fats. The liver produces and delivers more cholesterol into the bile to digest the fats)
- Hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptive pills
How can this be diagnosed?
- Abdominal ultrasound
- ERCP (endoscopic ultrasound)
- CT scan
- Abdominal and chest X-rays
- Blood test (signs of inflammation and complications)
What treatment can be give in this case, for your gallbladder?
Asymptomatic gallstone should be left untouched. Symptomatic gallstones can be managed with bed rest, pain reliever, antibiotics and IV drips. Usually, the inflammation will resolve with medical treatment, but if it progresses, surgical treatment is needed.
Cholecystectomy is the name of the surgery done to remove your entire gallbladder. You can still live like normal human being without a gallbladder!
Well, seems like you have already known the few main facts about gallbladder, now take care of it!
Want to find out if you might be having gallstones? Choose from these packages from our Health Screening Campaign. Act now, before it is too late.
American College of Gastroenterology
by Angie Loh
A medical student with nothing but passion and a pen. Poems and novels never fail to make me feel alive. I'm inspired to make the world a better place and fill it with a little bit more love. But first, where's my coffee? View all articles by Angie Loh.