Every year in the United States, roughly 300,000 people have their gallbladders removed, a surgical procedure known as a cholecystectomy. That’s just a small portion of the 20 million Americans with gallstones, including many whose stones are asymptomatic.
While pain is a symptom of gallstone problems, how it manifests can help you determine if it’s your gallbladder or if another digestive issue is to blame. Since untreated symptomatic gallstones can cause serious and even life-threatening complications, learning to recognize the symptoms of gallbladder problems is very important.
Skilled in advanced gallbladder surgery techniques, the team at Desert West Surgery wants every patient in Las Vegas, Nevada, to know what signs and symptoms to look for, so they can get help for their gallbladder problem as soon as possible. In this post, they offer a quick review of gallbladder anatomy, along with four signs to watch out for.
The gallbladder is a small sac that’s tucked under your liver, near your stomach. Its primary function is to act as a reservoir for digestive juices produced by the liver, releasing them as needed during the digestive process via a small tube or duct.
Sometimes, small concretions or “stones” form inside the gallbladder. Gallstones don’t always cause symptoms. Millions of people have gallstones and don’t even know it.
However, If one or more stones block the duct and prevent digestive juices from exiting normally, you can experience very painful symptoms.
Many problems can cause belly pain, but gallstone-related pain differs from other types of abdominal pain. These four pain-related symptoms can help determine if your gallbladder is to blame.
Because your gallbladder is located on the upper right side of your stomach, it makes sense that you’d feel pain on your right side when a stone blocks the duct. Many people experience pain toward the center of their belly, near their navel. Pain in your lower belly is probably due to a different problem.
Sometimes, gallstones cause “referred pain,” or pain outside of the area surrounding the gallbladder. For many people, this pain happens in the upper back, often right between their shoulder blades.
Other times, that referred pain can be felt in your right shoulder. This is different from heart-related pain that tends to occur on the left side. However, heart-related pain can happen in different areas, so if you have persistent pain in your right shoulder, it’s crucial to have it checked out right away.
When a gallstone moves into the duct and blocks digestive juices from escaping, it frequently causes intense pain that rapidly worsens. Most people experience this pain in the upper belly area, just below the breastbone.
If you have any of these symptoms combined with nausea, vomiting, or fever, seek medical treatment immediately since these could be signs of a serious infection.
A little temporary belly pain from time to time could be attributed to a meal or even a stomach “bug.” But if you have any of the symptoms listed above — or any belly pain that persists, recurs, or gets worse — it’s time for an evaluation to avoid potentially serious complications.
To learn what’s causing your belly symptoms or to find out more about gallstone treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone at Desert West Surgery today.