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The gallbladder is a small organ located beneath the liver. When fat is eaten, the gallbladder secretes bile into the stomach to help digest the fat. Sometimes, the gallbladder can become diseased due to the development of gallstones, which are small solid lumps of calcium mixed with cholesterol and bile salts. Signs and symptoms of gall bladder disease include may fever, nausea, pain, and jaundice.
Gallstones,and gall bladder disease can occur in people of all ages. Certain groups of people are at more risk, however. These include people who are obese, people with increased blood cholesterol, those with chronic inflammatory digestive diseases, women taking estrogen, and people with a family history of gallstones.
Common symptoms of gall bladder disease can vary widely. In some cases, gallstones may cause no symptoms at all; in these situations the stones are usually discovered during diagnostic tests being carried out for unrelated reasons, and may not require treatment. There are two different patterns of gall bladder disease symptoms. These are termed chronic cholecystitis and acute cholecystitis.
Chronic cholecystitis, also called biliary colic, is a chronic gallbladder inflammation which can cause severe pain and other symptoms. These signs of gall bladder disease include pain, nausea, vomiting, and flatulence. Pain typically appears on the right side of the body just below the ribcage, but may spread to the shoulder. The pain may increase in severity over the course of up to an hour, and remain for several hours. These symptoms are often triggered when fatty foods are eaten.
Acute cholecystitis is caused by sudden and severe infection or inflammation of the gallbladder. Symptoms of gall bladder disease common to this condition include pain beneath the ribcage on the right side of the body, and high temperature. Moving or coughing often makes the pain worse. This type of gallbladder disease is not always caused by gallstones. If an infection is the cause, the standard treatment is antibiotics. In very severe cases, gallbladder removal surgery may be needed.
Jaundice can accompany acute or chronic gallbladder disease when bile flow is obstructed. The most noticeable characteristic of jaundice is that the skin and the eyes become yellow due to a build-up of bile pigments in the skin. The skin may feel itchy, and often stools are pale, while urine is darker than usual. Sometimes, people with jaundice develop chills and fever. These symptoms indicate the possibility of bile duct infection and should receive prompt medical attention.
Once they have been diagnosed, people who experience recurrent symptoms of gall bladder disease can treat mild attacks at home with non-prescription pain medications. Eating a diet that is low in fat can help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. If symptoms persist more than a few hours, or are accompanied by signs of infection such as fever and chills, medical help should be sought.