Regardless of the eventual diagnosis of your gallbladder disease, most of the symptoms will be the same. This is one of the reasons it is hard to know exactly what the actual specifics of your particular issue are without several tests. The most common symptoms are indigestion, gas, bloating, burping and belching; especially (but not necessarily) following a meal. Symptoms most often occur after meals containing fat, as the disease related to the ability of the body to digest fats; but as the disease progresses it can become unrelated not only to fat intake, but even to food intake. The disease may progress to creating a constant tenderness or discomfort under the rib cage on the right side, which is unrelated to food intake. The symptoms are similar to those of a gallbladder attack but with lower severity.
Even if it does not seem to be connected to food now, the indigestion you experienced likely often followed a meal. What caused or is causing the problem with fat digestion could be one of many things: a stone could be blocking the bile flow, or the gallbladder could be distended due to stones or inflammation. The gallbladder could be not emptying fully (biliary dyskinesia), and lack of bile causes improper fat digestion. There could be infection in the gallbladder itself causing tenderness; or tenderness could simply be due to stasis of bile causing distention. Or the problem could start in the liver, with stasis of bile there via the formation of sludge or tiny calculi, which slows bile flow. Constipation and weight gain can also be symptoms of gallbladder problems, though these are not usually as relatable to fat intake.
Specific Gallbladder Diseases
Also called acalculous cholecystopathy, biliary dyskinesia is a disease or condition of the gallbladder that occurs without the presence of gallstones. It could also be termed “functional gallbladder disorder” or “impaired gallbladder emptying”. Some causes may be chronic inflammation or the gallbladder, an issue with the smooth muscles of the gallbladder, or the muscle that contracts the Sphincter of Oddi (and regulates bile flow) being too tight.
Symptoms include right upper quadrant pain, with the absence of gallstones. Any of the listed gallbladder symptoms may accompany this problem, as it results in a lack of concentrated bile from the gallbladder, which is necessary to digest fats.
There is evidence that stress may play a large role in causing this problem. The biliary dyskinesia kit is designed with that in mind.
Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. Acute cholecystitis is nearly always due to gallstones, but may also be due to bacterial infection or chemical irritation. Chronic cholecystitis can occur with or without stones (acalculous cholecystitis is without). If there are no stones present, the medical treatment used is often antispasmodics and/or laxatives. The products in the gallbladder attack kit work very well for the pain in this particular case. Choledocholithias Choledocholithias is a condition where gallstones form in the bile ducts. This can be very painful, and symptoms can vary depending upon where the stones are and if it they are actually blocking bile flow. A stone can block the neck of the gallbladder, which causes distention and inflammation (cholecystitis). In the common bile duct, stones can cause a backing up of bile into the liver (resulting in obstructive jaundice), or into the pancreas (causing acute pancreatitis).
Cholelithiasis is the medical term for gallstones. Gallstones are solid, crystalline precipitates in the biliary tract, usually formed in the gallbladder. They consist mainly of calcium, cholesterol, and/or bilirubin. See the page devoted to gallstones for more information.
Cholangitis is inflammation of the bile duct. Acute cholangitis is most often caused by a bacterial infection resulting from stagnation of the bile in the duct. Choledocholithiasis (a gallstone that gets stuck or lodged in the bile duct) can create an obstruction that results in an infection. Infections can also be caused by a stricture or narrowing of the duct itself, such as in Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (see below), or may accompany a cancer. In this condition, something blocks the free flow of the bile, which causes a stagnant condition that allows the bacteria to take hold.
Symptoms associated with cholangitis are pain, fever, chills, jaundice and abdominal pain.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
PSC is a hardening of the bile ducts of the liver, which obstructs the flow of bile and causes inflammation, leading to the breaking down of and eventual hardening or fibrosis of the bile ducts within the liver and outside the liver both (intrahepatic and extrahepatic bile ducts.)
Cholestasis is the impairment of bile flow due to obstruction in small bile ducts (called intrahepatic cholestasis) or obstruction in large bile ducts (called extrahepatic cholestasis).
Symptoms of cholestasis are caused by the blocking of the secretion of bile, which results in the bile backing up into the bloodstream. This can result in jaundice and excess bilirubin in the blood, which would make the urine dark and the stools pale or chalk colored. The excess of bile salts in the systemic circulation may cause intense itching and skin irritation, and there may be fat in the stools. The clotting time of blood may be impaired due to malabsorption of fats and Vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that many clotting factors depend upon.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 8,750 people will be diagnosed with gallbladder cancer in 2006. Statistics show that gallbladder cancer occurs five times as often in Native American people in New Mexico than in whites, and that women are normally more susceptible than men.
There are rarely any symptoms early on in gallbladder cancer. It is so subtle that it is often only discovered when the gallbladder is removed for other causes, such as gallstones. Otherwise, gallbladder cancer is usually quite advanced by the time it is diagnosed.
If caught early, removing the gallbladder and affected tissues in bile ducts is the standard treatment for gallbladder cancer.
Gallbladder polyps are growths or lesions that grow in and protrude from the lining of the gallbladder. They're usually benign and rarely cancerous. 95 percent are non-cancerous, and ten percent are the result of inflammation, with most being the result of cholesterol deposits.
Gallbladder polyps usually produce no symptoms, and therefore need no treatment. They may be found accidentally if an ultrasound of the gallbladder done for some other reason. There is rarely any pain involved, and any pain that is there is most likely due to something else (such as gallstones). Occasionally, the polyps may grow large enough to require surgical removal.