Have you ever wondered about the seemingly “useless” organs you have in your body? Things like the appendix or the gallbladder that feel sort of like extra, forgotten parts of your body?
These tiny, mostly unimportant organs are only useful when they no longer work, which is frustrating! You may not even be familiar with the gallbladder or how it functions in your body.
If your gallbladder stops working or you develop a gallbladder disease, however, you’re sure to know exactly what is going on.
What Does the Gallbladder Do?
Your gallbladder is a small (and we mean small) organ that is located just below the liver. It is shaped like a little pear, and it stores the bile that your liver produces and passes it through a duct that empties into your small intestine.
This bile helps you digest fats within your intestines, as well as certain types of vitamins that your body needs. Your gallbladder only holds between 1 and 2.7 fluid ounces of this bile at any given time.
How Do I Know If I Have Gallbladder Disease?
There are several key signs that you should be on the lookout for if you have a family history of gallbladder disease, or if you start experiencing a new, unfamiliar pain or discomfort.
The biggest sign of gallbladder disease is gallstones, which are tiny stones that form when cholesterol and bile harden together. Some people have no symptoms when they suffer from gallstones, but that isn’t the normal case.
Symptoms of gallstones include sudden and intense pain in the upper right section of your abdomen, which is where your gallbladder is located; this sometimes migrates to a sharp pain between your shoulder blades.
Sometimes people also experience pain in the right shoulder, and it is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. These symptoms can last just a few minutes or several hours.
Other signs of gallbladder disease include chronic diarrhea, which is classified by four bowel movements or more per day for at least three months, and digestive problems like chronic gas or acid reflux.
What Should I Do If I Think I Have Gallbladder Disease?
Are you experiencing any of the symptoms described above? The best bet is to make an appointment with your doctor and see if you can be sent for testing!
Most of the time, your pain is probably intense but not lasting, and there is rarely an urgency to it. If your gallbladder pain lasts for several minutes at a time or does not fade, emergency services should be alerted – otherwise, a regular checkup is due.
Your doctor can perform an ultrasound on your organs to look at your gallbladder, do blood tests, or some combination of those to figure out what is the best option. For serious cases, removal of the organ may be required.