The gall bladder, also known by its scientific name, cholecyst, is one of what doctors and medical scientists call the body’s “non-vital” organs. This non-vital organ serves to aid the body in its digestive processes and also stores a substance called bile which is originally produced in the liver. Because of its functions, it should surprise anyone little to note that the gall bladder sits on the liver. This small organ, a mere 8 centimeters in length and 4 centimeters in diameter, has three parts – the fundus, body and neck. The neck is what connects the gall bladder to the biliary tree, and where the gall bladder can start causing trouble for people.
How can the gall bladder cause trouble? Well, just as surely as the gall bladder aids in digestion, it can also hinder digestion. An adult’s gall bladder can store about 1.7 fluid ounces of bile. When a human eats food that contains fat, this food enters the digestive tract. As soon as the food is present in the digestive tract, the gall bladder releases its stored bile in order to emulsify the fat. The gall bladder can turn from more of a help to a problem though, if one of several abnormal gall bladder conditions occur.
One of the most common gall bladder conditions you hear about is gall stones. A common condition, gallstones – hard deposits that form in the gallbladder – form for one of two common reasons. In some instances, gallstones form when there is too much cholesterol or too much of a substance called bilirubin in the bile (the substance that helps the body digest fats). Gallstones can also crop up if the gallbladder does not have enough bile salts or if it fails to empty properly. The second common reason that gallstones form has to do with the gallbladders of people who have a medical condition that causes the body’s liver to produce too much bilirubin. These gallstones are called pigment stones and they occur most often in people suffering from cirrhosis of the liver or a condition called a biliary tract infection.
Gall bladder symptoms associated with gall stones include digestive symptoms as well as some others. First, it is important to know whether you are at risk for gall stones. Some doctors use the “Four F’s” to define people who are at risk for gall stones, and those Four F’s are “fat, female, fertile and flatulent.” Native Americans and people over 40 are also prone to gall bladder symptoms.
When someone is suffering from gall bladder symptoms, they process is often called a gall bladder attack. The word attack is appropriate, because the sufferer often experiences intense, excruciating pain in the upper abdomen for approximately 30 minutes to several hours. A sufferer may also experience pain elsewhere on the body, including between the shoulder blades or under the right shoulder. Patients may also have trouble breathing deeply, and may be prone to nausea and vomiting during the attack. If a gall bladder sufferer has also suffered from kidney stones, they often describe the gall bladder symptoms as similar to kidney stone symptoms.
Other, less severe but equally irritating symptoms include a bad reaction to a fatty meal. Gall bladder symptoms can also include bloating, an intolerance to fatty foods, belching, gas and indigestion. More severe gall bladder symptoms include chills, fever, yellow skin or eyes, and clay colored stool. If any of these severe symptoms are present, the sufferer should contact his or her primary care physician immediately because it is likely they are suffering from severe gall bladder symptoms.