When you have pain in your abdomen, it’s hard to pinpoint its origin. It could be appendicitis, indigestion, a kidney stone, or an intense stomach ache. Because our bodies are so intricate, detailing your symptoms helps our team zero in on the problem area and get to work on a treatment that’s going to alleviate your pain.
One of the biggest culprits of abdominal pain is gallbladder disease. Gallstones are the #1 gastrointestinal disorder that causes hospitalization.
Our dedicated team of doctors here at Desert West Surgery are here to answer a few questions about the gallbladder, gallstones, and why a problem with your gallbladder can affect your shoulders.
What is the gallbladder?
Shaped like a tiny pear, your gallbladder resides on your right side, just below your liver. It stores bile, which is a vital fluid your liver manufactures that plays an essential role in digestion. Every time you eat, your gallbladder releases bile that travels through ducts into your small intestine.
What are gallstones?
Occasionally, bile can accumulate and form a mass, called a gallstone, in your gallbladder. Gallstones can range in size from microscopic to the size of a ping pong ball. Signs that you may have gallstones include:
- Pain in the middle of your abdomen
- Pain in your upper right abdomen
- Pain that accelerates rapidly
- Right shoulder pain
- Pain between your shoulder blades
- Loss of appetite
Let’s take a closer look at one of these symptoms: shoulder pain.
How does an inflamed gallbladder affect my shoulders?
When your gallbladder is inflamed and swollen, it irritates your phrenic nerve. Your phrenic nerve stretches from the abdomen, through the chest, and into your neck. Each time you eat a fatty meal, it aggravates the nerve and causes referred pain in your right shoulder blade.
Recurring right shoulder pain is a crucial indicator for our team to investigate your gallbladder to see if there is an infection or a blockage.
Who is at risk for gallstones?
You’re at an elevated risk for gallstones if you’re:
- Over 60
- A diabetic
- A woman
- Losing weight rapidly
- Taking cholesterol-lowering drugs
If you have recurring shoulder pain in conjunction with abdominal pain, you should schedule an appointment at one of our three convenient locations in Las Vegas as quickly as possible. If left untreated, gallstones can lead to sudden gallbladder attacks or other serious problems. To learn more, call the location closest to you.