Gallbladder Infection

Gallbladder is the organ responsible for storing bile and releasing it in the small intestine, to aid in the digestion of fats. It is small and pear-shaped, located on the right side of the abdomen. It is also connected to the liver. Gallbladder infection, also known as cholecystitis, is when the gall bladder gets inflamed.

Gallstones are formed when cholesterol and bilirubin (a pigment present in bile) combine together, also called as biliary sludge. 95% of the cases of cholecystitis are caused due to this. Other causes of gall bladder infection are trauma, hospital treatments or treatment of bile or liver conditions.

What Is Gallbladder Infection?

Gallbladder infection is caused when the organ gets inflamed. It is present just below the liver and is attached to the main duct which carries bile from the liver to the small intestine. Bile is produced by the liver to primarily digest fats, and is temporarily stored in the gall bladder. When food is consumed, the bile is secreted from the gall bladder by contracting, via the cystic duct and common bile duct. It mixes with the food in the small intestine and helps in digestion.

Types of Gallbladder Infection

Gall Bladder infection can be of 2 types:

  • Acute cholecystitis. In this case, there is sudden onset of symptoms like sharp abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fever, due to sudden inflammation of the gallbladder.
  • Chronic cholecystitis: This happens when there is a low intensity inflammation of the gall bladder. It can be caused when there are frequent cases of acute cholecystitis. There can be mild abdominal pain, intermittently, or no symptoms at all. Over a period of time the walls of the gall bladder can thicken and get scarred. Ultimately it shrinks and loses its ability to store and release bile.

What Are the Symptoms & Complications of Gallbladder Infection?

The most commonly seen signs and symptoms of Gallbladder infection are given below:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen in the right hand side. This pain is intense and starts suddenly in case of acute cholecystitis. It starts radiating towards the back and right shoulder. If left untreated it get worse and makes breathing in difficult
  • Tenderness in the upper abdomen in the right side
  • Slight fever or chills and sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating and loss of appetite

The symptoms tend to worsen after a high fat meal.

Complications

Once cholecystitis occurs, it can lead to further complications as given below:

  • Infection inside the gallbladder. When there is obstruction of the gallbladder opening, the bile accumulates in the gall bladder and can get infected.
  • Death of gallbladder tissue. If the cholecystitis is left unattended or untreated, it can cause death of the tissue. This can further lead to the gall bladder to tear, rupture or burst.
  • Torn gallbladder. If the gallbladder gets enlarged or infected, it can tear and leak.

When to See a Doctor

If there are any signs and symptoms causing worry, it is good to get it checked by the doctor. In case the abdominal pain gets very severe, making it difficult to perform regular activities, get someone to take you to the ER.

What Are the Causes of Gallbladder Infection?

The causes of Gallbladder infection are:

  • Gallstones. The gallstones formed due to the cholesterol and bile salts can obstruct the cystic duct. This causes the bile to accumulate in the gallbladder and results in infection.
  • Tumor. A tumor present in the gallbladder can also prevent the bile from draining out from the gallbladder and thus causes cholecystitis
  • Bile duct blockage. If the bile ducts are scarred or blocked due to kinking, it can lead to cholecystitis.

Risk Factors

Given below are the conditions which increase the risk of developing gallbladder infection:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Obesity
  • Old age
  • Pregnancy
  • Rapid loss of weight
  • Family history of gallstones on mother’s side

What Are the Treatments for Gallbladder Infection?

The treatment for gall bladder infection depends mainly on the types of symptoms exhibited. In case the person has gall stones but no symptoms, no treatment will be required.

  • For mild symptoms, antibiotics are given intravenously, fluids and pain medicine is prescribed.
  • For chronic cholecystitis, medication is prescribed which helps in dissolving the gall stones over a period of time.
  • For acute cholecystitis, the gall bladder is removed by a laparoscopic surgery termed as cholecystectomy. Sometimes the irritation and swelling of the gallbladder is reduced prior to removal. An extensive surgery might also be required to remove the gall bladder.

A procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP) is done to remove the gall stones obstructing the bile duct. Gallbladder removal might be performed after this if required.

How to Prevent Gallbladder Infection

Given below are some measures, which if followed regularly will help in the prevention of gall stones, which are the primary cause of gallbladder infection:

  • Set eating times. Meals should not be skipped. All main meals of the day including breakfast, lunch and dinner should be had at set time every day.
  • Exercise. An exercise regime of 30 minutes every day, five days a week, can help in preventing the formation of gallstones. Physically inactive people are at more risk to developing gallstones.
  • Bodyweight. The risk of developing gallstones increases in obese and overweight people. When ideal body weight is maintained, the risk is lower.
  • Slow weight loss. When overweight people plan to lose weight, they should stick to losing 1 to 2 pounds per week which is healthy weight loss. Rapid weight loss will put people at more risk of developing gall stones.
 
 
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