Gallbladder disease is caused by conditions that slow or block the flow of bile from the gallbladder. Bile is a fluid that breaks down fat during the digestive process. Inflammation or gallstones can block the bile flow. Gallstones are solid particles that result from an imbalance of bile components. When gallstones or bile accumulate, the gallbladder can become painful and inflamed.
Gallstones may not produce symptoms, and some gallstones do not require treatment. Pain is the hallmark symptom when gallstone complications occur. The most common treatment for gallbladder disease is surgical removal of the gallbladder or treatments to eliminate gallstones.
Cholecystitis occurs when the flow of bile from the gallbladder to the common bile duct is blocked. This leads to the build up of bile in the gallbladder. The over-accumulation of bile causes irritation and pressure in the gallbladder. This can lead to bacterial infection and tearing of the gallbladder. In most cases, gallstones cause the blockage that causes cholecystitis. Other less frequent causes of blockage include severe illness, tumors, and alcohol abuse.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing gallbladder disease and gallstones. People with all of the risk factors may never develop the disease; however, the chance of developing the condition increases with the more risk factors you have. You should tell your doctor about your risk factors and discuss your concerns.
Risk factors for gallstones:
_____ Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for gallstones. Obesity is associated with increased levels of cholesterol leading to the production of gallstones.
_____ Increased levels of estrogen can increase cholesterol levels and result in reduced bile emptying. Women who are pregnant, taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy have higher levels of estrogen.
_____ Native Americans and Mexican Americans have higher incidence of gallstones.
_____ Women develop more gallstones than men.
_____ Gallstones are more common in older people.
_____ People with diabetes have an increased risk for gallstone formation because they tend to have higher levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat.
_____ Losing weight rapidly can cause the liver to produce extra cholesterol, which is associated with gallstone formation.
_____ Fasting or not eating for extended periods of time can cause a reduction in gallbladder contractions and lead to gallstone formation.
_____ People with liver disease, blood disease, or high levels of bilirubin are at risk for developing pigmented gallstones.
Risk factors for chronic cholecystitis include:
_____ Repeated episodes of acute cholecystitis can lead to chronic cholecystitis.
_____ Gallstones are the most common cause of cholecystitis.
_____ Cholecystitis occurs more frequently in women than men.
_____ Most cases of cholecystitis occur after the age of 40 years old.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.