What does a Gallbladder do?
The gallbladder is a small, but important part of the digestive system. It holds, then releases bile produced by the liver. The bile enters the small intestine and helps break down fatty foods.
What is a gallstone and how does it affect digestion?
A gallstone forms when bile crystallizes. Most people won’t have any symptoms until the gallstone reaches a certain size or if it blocks the bile duct that lets bile into the small intestine. If the bile duct is blocked with a gallstone, not only is bile not released into the small intestine to break down fatty foods, but it also could cause bile backup or block the duct that drains the pancreas.
What does a gallstone feel like?
Many people develop gallstones and never know. Once a stone moves out of the gallbladder and into the bile duct, most people feel pain from the inflammation that results. Common symptoms from people will gallstones include:
pain in the upper abdomen, sometimes radiating to the right shoulder or back
nausea and/or vomiting
yellow-tinted skin (a sign of jaundice)
light colored stools or dark urine
What can be done about gallstones?
If you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms related to your gallbladder, your first step is to make an appointment with your primary care doctor. You can find primary care providers that work with Upland Hills Health on our Provider Page.
To determine the cause of gallbladder symptoms, your provider may order blood tests that also measure your liver function, or an abdominal x-ray or ultrasound to better understand what the issue is. In most cases of gallstones, you’ll then be referred to a surgeon to remove your gallbladder.