The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped, muscular organ closely attached to the under surface of the liver. Its only function is to store and concentrate the bile between meals so there will be a plentiful supply when needed. Bile from the liver is clear, golden color when formed, but after being concentrated in the gallbladder it turns a deep green.
This concentrating process sometimes results in the formation on stones forming the gallbladder, particularly in women following pregnancy. Most of these patients are overweight. Stones may form in other parts as well as the gallbladder, but these are relatively rare.
Many people with gallstones seem to have no problem at all, especially if there is one large stone. But when a number of smaller stones are present in the gallbladder, the patient may feel sharp, cramp like pains all over upper abdomen. These come on an hour or two after meals. The condition is more likely to occur at night, and may produce nausea and vomiting, as well as a rapid hear t and tenderness in the right upper part of the abdomen.
Many of these patients complain of gas and distention of the abdomen especially after eating fried foods, fat, and green vegetables. If the stone completely blocks the common bile duct, jaundice will result and the skin will become a yellow and very itchy. This is a serious condition that should be relieved at once, if at all possible.
Most gallstones can be seen by X-ray, using certain contrast dyes to outline the stones. In the more severe states the patient has fever, cramp like pain in the abdomen, as well as gas and general discomfort. This condition may resemble peptic ulcer, coronary artery disease, acute appendicitis, and even shingles.
A correct diagnosis is therefore important, for delay could be dangerous in so serious a condition. Women are more likely to be affected particularly during the later years.