What is cholecystitis?


Know the basics

What is cholecystitis?

The gallbladder is a small sac located under the liver. It stores bile that the liver makes and squirts bile into the bowel (intestine) when a meal is eaten. Bile helps digest fats in the food. Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. It is often called a gallbladder attack. Cholecystitis is usually caused by gallstones that get stuck in the duct (tube) that takes bile from the gallbladder to the bowel.

How common is cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is common. It affects more females than males and is more usually found at old people. When the disease is caused not by gallbladder, it often affects more males than females. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of cholecystitis?

The common signs and symptoms of cholecystitis are pain and cramping in the upper right side of the abdomen. It can affect other body parts. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain in the chest, upper back or right shoulder. Pain when breathing in or moving or when pressure is on the area.
  • Belching, nausea, and vomiting, usually after eating high-fat foods.
  • Low temperature.
  • Yellow skin.
  • Whites of the eyes.
  • Pale stools (bowel movements).
  • Itchy skin may occur if the main duct bringing bile to the intestines is blocked by a stone.
  • An infected gallbladder may cause high temperature and chills.

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have severe stomach pain and cannot move, ask someone else to call your doctor.

Know the causes

What causes cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is usually caused by gallstones (called cholelithia-sis) but it can also be related to problems with bile being made or stored in the gallbladder. This other type is called acalculous, meaning without calculi (stones). Other causes are sickle cell disease, infections, and diabetes. The acalculous type is found more often in older men, very sick people, or bedridden elderly people.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for cholecystitis?

Risk factors for cholecystitis are like those for gallstones. They include age, female sex, certain ethnic groups (such as Native Americans), obesity, fasting, high-fat diet, losing and gaining weight excessively, drugs, and pregnancy.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cholecystitis diagnosed?

The doctor makes a diagnosis from a medical history and physical examination. X-rays, blood tests, and ultrasonography will confirm it. When ultrasonography shows unclear results, the doctor uses a special x-ray test (HIDA scan).

How is cholecystitis treated?

For treatment, the gallbladder and gallstones are removed by surgery (cholecystectomy). Laparoscopic removal is the usual method. It allows shorter recovery and can be an outpatient surgery. For laparoscopic removal, the surgeon makes four tiny cuts in the abdomen. The surgeon uses instruments through these cuts to remove the gallbladder.

If laparoscopic surgery cannot be used, standard surgery is done, which will require a prolonged hospital stay. Removing the gallbladder doesn’t affect normal living, except for occasional indigestion when eating fatty foods for 6 to 12 months after gallbladder removal. This problem usually goes away.

Drugs can also be used to dissolve stones, but medicines can take months or years to work and are only rarely used.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cholecystitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cholecystitis:

  • Tell your doctor if you have pain that you think may be caused by gallstones.
  • Call your doctor right away if you get a fever with abdominal pain.
  • Maintain a normal weight.
  • Avoid high-fat meals.
  • Don’t fast for long periods or go on crash diets.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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