Gallbladder Disease: My Experience

Different types of gallbladder diseases

Do you think you might have gallbladder disease? I had it for years before my suspicions were confirmed. I knew I fit the standard profile or the four “Fs” – fat, forty, female, and fair (white). I had also had several children but hadn’t breastfed, which made me an even more likely candidate. My gallbladder symptoms were rather vague. They included some pain, but it wasn’t severe. The worst part of the disease was that I just felt bad much of the time. Once the problem was identified, I was ready to get that sucker out! The physician who performed my gallbladder removal was an old schoolmate, so I felt completely comfortable with him, and we joked around a lot. I tried to talk him into letting me have the organ after the surgery. He asked me what I was going to do with it, and I told him I wanted to use it for shark bait. He didn’t give me my gallbladder, and I never could understand why not. After all, it was mine, and I was paying for the gall bladder surgery!

gallstones
gallstones | Source

Gallbladder

The human gallbladder (or gall bladder, as it sometimes appears in search engines) is located just under the liver, in the upper right part of the abdomen. The gallbladder is a sac-like organ, typically about three inches long, and it’s capable of holding a little less than two ounces of bile. Bile, an acidic fluid, is produced by the liver and is concentrated and stored in the gallbladder. When we consume foods that contain fat, a message is sent to the gall bladder to squirt bile into the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine. Bile helps the body break down and digest fats.


Gallbladder disease

Most people associate gallbladder disease only with gallstones. You can, however, have gall bladder disease without having gallstones. I did. When I first began to have pain in my gallbladder region, I ignored it for a long time. Since it persisted, I finally went to the doctor. He ordered an ultrasound, which revealed no gallstones. I left the office, without a clue as to what was causing my pain.

When the gallbladder symptoms persisted, I returned to my doctor. He ordered another ultrasound, and again, no gallstones were found. I convinced him that something was going on with my liver or gall bladder, so he sent me to our local hospital for more tests. There, I had a gallbladder function test. For this, I was injected with a synthetic fat, and the technician watched my gallbladder on a screen to see how the organ was functioning. My doctor’s nurse called with the results. My gallbladder was functioning at 1%! In other words, it was “dead,” even though I had no gallstones.

There are several types of gallbladder disease. Cholelithiasis is the term used when gallstones have formed in the biliary tract, and cholecystitis is when the gallbladder is inflamed, usually due to gallstones. Choledocholithiasis is when gallstones are blocking the bile ducts. Cholangitis is the inflammation of the bile duct, often caused by an infection. Cholestasis is the term used when the flow of bile is significantly reduced or completely obstructed. Acalculous biliary dyskinesia is the term used for a gallbladder that doesn’t function properly, in the absence of gallstones. Obviously, I had the latter. My doc sent me to a surgeon, and my gallbladder surgery was scheduled.


Gallbladder symptoms – gallbladder attack

Gall bladder symptoms can vary from person to person. I usually experienced an almost constant nagging pain, but many people have a sudden onset of gallbladder symptoms, which is often called a gallbladder attack. My gallbladder symptoms included pain just beneath my ribcage on the right side, along with a full feeling. A gall bladder attack, on the other hand, might include more severe pain and vomiting. Gallbladder symptoms might also include fever, diarrhea, and/or chills. Gallbladder pain might also be felt under the breast bone or in the back, under the shoulder blades.

A gallbladder attack can be triggered by different foods with different people, but foods high in fat are the usual culprits. Sometimes an attack can be caused by seemingly no reason at all. An episode might last less than an hour, or it could last for several hours. I know people who suffered extreme gallbladder pain and excessive vomiting. For others, like me, the symptoms can be vague and hard to pinpoint.


Gallstones

Gallstones are fairly common, but most people don’t realize they can be life-threatening. The stones are formed in the gallbladder and might be as small as grains of sand or almost as large as a hen egg. Gallstones vary in composition and color. They might consist of cholesterol, bilirubin, phosphate, calcium, or a combination of these materials. Gallstones range in color and might be green, pale yellow, brown, or almost black. Gallstones that obstruct the bile ducts can cause pancreatitis or ascending cholangitis, both of which can result in death.

Gallbladder surgery – gallbladder removal

The term for gallbladder surgery is cholecystectomy, and there are two basic types – open and laparoscopic. Gall bladder surgery – the open version - used to be terrible, as the patient was practically “sawn in half” and had to stay in the hospital for several days. Nowadays, however, gallbladder removal is often done laparoscopically, with just three or four small incisions in the abdomen. Thankfully, my gall bladder removal was done in the second manner I described. My gallbladder surgery took only a few minutes, and as soon as I recovered from the general anesthesia, I was allowed to go home.

I had four incisions, but only one really caused me pain – the one in my upper right abdomen. It didn’t hurt all the time, but when I used my abdominal muscles to get up or to lie down, that incision hurt. You don’t realize how much you use those muscles until they’re compromised in some way. I never did have to take any pain meds, however, even though I was prescribed some narcotics after my gall bladder surgery.

This was just before Christmas vacation from school, so I was off for several days to recover. It didn’t take long, though, for me to be better than new! In fact, just a couple of days after my gallbladder removal, I hosted a huge Christmas party. I felt better than I had in years, as that constant gnawing pain and the general sense of not feeling well were both eliminated – forever. Well, I still have other aches and occasional illnesses, but they’re not associated with my gallbladder. If you think you might have gallbladder disease, please get it checked out. I wish I had done so sooner. Having gallbladder surgery was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.


Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery:

Gallstones:

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Comments 23 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Had my gallbladder surgery about 12 years ago. The funny thing about it is that before the surgery I was able to take codeine for pain. Then after the surgery every time I would take codeine I would have something similar to a gallbladder attack. I've said this to doctors and they just shrug...guess they don't know why. I should research it.

Your hub is very informative for anyone that thinks they may have a gallbladder problem and I'm sure this will help out many people.


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for sharing this valuable information. I can NOT believe that gallstones get that big! No wonder surgery is the only viable option in many cases. I'm glad your surgery was a success and that pain/discomfort is behind you.


dinkan53 profile image

dinkan53 4 years ago from India

Full view of gall bladder problems, great work habee. For those who are in search for gall bladder related problems, this is the right place they are searching for. Enjoyed the video. bookmarking to share.

rated up, useful and interesting!!!


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

That's strange, Susan! I have one side effect from the surgery that persists, although my gallbladder removal was done years ago. As soon as I eat a meal, I need to visit the potty! lol


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

That makes two of us, LL! Thanks for stopping by!


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Many, many thanks, Dinkan!


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Thanks for the fascinating videos, Holle. If I ever have to remove someone's gallbladder I am now prepared. Willing? No. But prepared, yes. Did you notice, BTW, that in the surgery video toward the end the instrument appeared to burn a portion of the patient's liver? Scary!


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

This type of surgery is being used now for a lot of different problems. Glad yours went well.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

Wow, that must have been an annoying experience. I am sure glad you got rid of it.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 4 years ago from Arizona

Holle, great article, with good advise. I had pain in the area of the gallbladder and it was a dull nagging pain that felt like a broom handle was pushing under my ribs just to the right of center. After about 3 sonograms and no problems found, I finally got to the right doctor and after a short talk, he scheduled me for surgery and never even did more than shake my hand. He told me that all the symptoms I told him and a quick look at the records I brought, that "no one wants surgery just for fun" and due to my size and solid coverage of tattoos that he felt I had a fair amount of familiarity of pain. It was 37 days from the onset that didn't go away until I had my surgery. It was laproscopic and instant relief when I woke up. I was prepped and lights out at 6am and awake at 10 am and discharged by noon with 5, 1 inch incisions with stitches below the skin that were dissolving and a blue colored super glue at the skin level. I never had any pain again. They sent the organ to the lab to be cut open and checked for disease and stones. There were no stones, it showed inflammation and that the exit that works like a rectum was severely swollen retaining all the contents just like a stone would.

They probably wouldn't give you yours because the cutting on it to insure there was no other problems like cancer, I imagine. They call our body parts HAZMAT and even a dentist wants to keep your teeth now days, last year I broke a molar while eating ice cubes and it had to get pulled and after a disagreement and me telling them "no tooth no pay" I got my tooth in a small bottle of alcohol.They are really getting carried away with the hazardous material thing when one wants their own parts back.

Glad you came out well, and hubbed the experience,

Peace,

Dusty


jenubouka 4 years ago

This was better than any search, I could understand it yet not have the notions to run to the er in fear. Some articles tend to promote the idea you are a prime candidate for the subject you are reading, especially if you have hypochondriac mind.

It is always a scary thought that one of your organs that is supposed to help you is in fact the very thing that is harming you.

Voted up great one habee!


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Well, drbj, you could do some gallbladder removal on the side to earn some extra cash! lol


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 4 years ago from Arizona

The burning was cauterizing it so it didn't bleed after the disconnect......

just saying..... dust


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Mary. done with your shopping?


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Cardisa, so am I! lol


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Dusty, your gallbladder pain sounds exactly what I experienced. We must have had the same type of gallbladder disease.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Many thanks, jenu!

Dusty, thanks for adding that!


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 4 years ago

Holly, Great hub! Glad you are okay now! This was informative and educational! Thank You for sharing, In HIS Love Grace, Joy, Peace & Blessings!


Inspired to write profile image

Inspired to write 4 years ago from Wales UK

Hello Habee nicely written hub, my female friend in college suffered really badly from the gallbladder symptoms & eventually, last years she had it surgically removed, now,months & months later, she is still in terrible pain as she has more gallstones within. I should pass her onto this article but I can't think what the problem is now. Hope she gets better soon, thanks for sharing your experience.

Regards Dale


Gary 4 years ago

I had a hida scan on my gallbladder been having severe pain the doctor called and said my gallbladder is functioning at 90% and needs to come out. Was wondering if anybody has the same experience and if they had surgery?


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 4 years ago from Northern California

Good solid Hub..I have some of your symptoms in my right rib area and I wonder if I might have this disease in the early stages..thank you for writing this.


Guest 4 years ago

I had a hida scan with an ejection fraction of 99%. After 4 month of vomiting and nausea and 25 lbs of weight loss my first surgeon said nothing was wrong my doctor found another surgeon who said I needed to have my fall bladder removed. I had surgery yesterday and am feeling better.


Lauren 3 years ago

The exact same thing happened to me! I was having extreme nausea, pale stool, abdominal pain, and yellow in the whites of my eyes. The doctors couldn't find any stones so they just kind of blew it off. As the symptoms worsened I went to another doctor who sent me for a HIDA scan. My gallbladder was functioning at 5% when i was a fit and healthy 14 year old girl :)

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