What Causes Gallbladder Disease?

Under normal circumstances, your gallbladder quietly does its job, aiding in your digestion. However, when disease develops in this small organ, the effects can cause considerable pain and lead to potentially serious health problems.

At our practice, Dr. Gabriel Akopian and our team understand the enormous impact that gallbladder disease can have on your health and wellness, and we offer a number of solutions. But as with any health condition, it helps to understand the underlying causes of gallbladder problems so that we can better handle them when they arise or even avoid them in the first place.

Here’s a look at some of the more common causes of gallbladder disease.

Gallbladder 101

Before we get into the causes of gallbladder disease, let’s take a closer look at this organ. Your gallbladder is a small sac located in your abdomen, and it’s responsible for storing bile, which is produced in your liver and is designed to aid in your digestion. Your gallbladder not only stores bile, it releases the liquid into your small intestine to help break down fats.

In terms of importance, your gallbladder certainly plays a role in your digestion, but it’s by no means a critical role as you can function perfectly well without your gallbladder. This point is important as we explore gallbladder disease further.

Behind gallbladder disease

Most problems develop when inflammation develops in your gallbladder, a condition known as cholecystitis. There are two types of cholecystitis:

Acute cholecystitis

This type of gallbladder disease typically develops because of gallstones, which are hardened deposits that block the passageways and ducts to and from your gallbladder. These deposits or “stones” can be made of cholesterol, bilirubin, bile salts, and calcium.

Gallstones can range in size from a grain of sand to a ping pong ball, and they become problematic when they lodge themselves in the ducts and passageways, preventing your gallbladder from emptying its contents.

Another reason why acute cholecystitis develops is due to tumors, though these are far less common than gallstones.

Chronic cholecystitis

If you have several attacks of acute cholecystitis, it can permanently affect your gallbladder’s ability to function properly.

While gallstones account for the majority of problems with cholecystitis, the inflammation can develop without the presence of gallstones in a condition known as acalculous gallbladder disease. This type of inflammation typically occurs on the heels of another medical issue, such as major surgery or physical trauma.

The road to gallstones

Since gallstones are the primary culprits when it comes to gallbladder issues, it’s important to review the lifestyle habits or conditions that make you more prone to developing gallstones, including:

As well, heredity plays a role in your risk of developing gallstones.

Resolving gallbladder disease

If you present with the classic signs of gallbladder disease (pain, nausea, and vomiting), we identify the root cause to determine next steps. While we may be able to control the inflammation through a change in diet and prescribing antibiotics, if gallstones are present, we may need to remove them (and your gallbladder) in a minimally invasive surgical procedure called a cholecystectomy. 

As we mentioned earlier, you can function normally without your gallbladder, so if this small organ becomes more of a liability than an asset, removal is a perfectly viable option that shouldn’t significantly interrupt your life.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s causing your gallbladder disease, and what we can do about it, please contact our office in Pasadena, California, to set up an appointment.

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