What is a Gallbladder and why is it so important?
What your Gallbladder does
The gallbladder is a small organ on the right side of the upper abdomen just beneath the liver. The total length of your Gallbladder is between six and 15cm long.
According to the experts at House Call Doctor, the gallbladder stores a bile fluid made from cholesterol, fats, proteins, salt and bilirubin, which the gallbladder stores to aid digestion. It extracts water from the bile until the liquid becomes highly concentrated. Fatty foods prompt the gallbladder to squeeze the bile into the small intestine.
Gallstones are a small pebble type substance that can form in the gallbladder. These occurs because the bile in the gallbladder hardens, often because of an imbalance in bile components.
Around 15 percent of people aged over 50 will have gallstones. Gallstones are also more common in women than men, people who are overweight, and those with a family history.
Scientists are uncertain as to how a person develops gallstones. It’s possible that developing gallstones is caused by changes in bile composition or because the gallbladder has failed to empty correctly making it easier for bile to become stagnate and form stones.
Gallstones vary in size and can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as 2-3 cm in diameter. For 80 percent of people gallstones don’t pose any issues. Problems with gallstones occur when a stone gets stuck at the gallbladder’s neck which causes severe pain under the right ribs.
There are two different types of gallstones – cholesterol gallstones and pigment gallstones. Cholesterol gallstones are the most common and are mainly composed of undissolved cholesterol. Pigment gallstones are dark brown or black stones and according to Mayo Clinic, are formed when bile in the body contains too much bilirubin.
Common signs you may have gallstones include:
- Sudden and intense pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen and/or in the centre of the abdomen
- Back pain, often between the shoulder blades
- Pain in the right shoulder
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
It’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms.
However, you should seek urgent medical attention if you’re showing any signs of a serious gallstone complication. These include:
- High fever and chills
- Yellowing of the skin and/or the whites of your eyes
- Intense abdominal pain where it’s difficult to sit still.
Surgery to remove the gallbladder is one of the most common surgeries in Australia with 18, 000 performed each year.
It’s possible to live without a gallbladder, but a diet and lifestyle overhaul is recommended to help keep your liver healthy. The surgery is performed using laparoscopy, and after the gallbladder is removed then the bile will flow straight from the liver to the small intestine.