Colorado’s Leading Gallbladder Disease Experts
We Can Help with Your Gallbladder Disease
For over twenty years, the Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology Associates team has dedicated itself to providing exceptional treatment to the residents of Colorado. Our board-certified doctors are trained to identify several different gallbladder diseases, note any factors that lead to the disease, and provide relief as effectively and quickly as possible. When we provide treatment, we have a team approach to your help. We’ll perform a full range of diagnostic tests and provide you with treatment options. Our goal is to work with you to find the best solution for your condition, so you can go back to enjoying your life to the fullest. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss our gallbladder disease treatments or schedule your consultation.
What is Gallbladder Disease?
The term gallbladder disease refers to any condition that affects the overall health of your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small organ in your digestive system and is located under your liver and stores the bile produced in the liver. When needed, your gallbladder will send some of the bile to your small intestine to help break down food. Gallbladder disease can begin in the organ itself or any of the bile ducts. Due to how interconnected your gallbladder is, any complications could affect other organs. Here are some of the more common conditions that affect the gallbladder:
- Gallstones – These are widespread causes of gallbladder problems. Gallstones develop when excess bile is produced. This accumulates into lumps that can continue to grow. They can cause issues if they block bile flow in the ducts. It’s possible for your body to flush gallstones out of your body without you knowing you have them.
- Cholecystitis – Cholecystitis, or inflammation, is the most common symptom of gallbladder disease and, if left untreated, can cause issues and complications. This can be a sign of an infection, a blockage of your gallbladder, or even rarely a sign of cancer. Often, it’s caused by gallstones blocking the flow of bile.
- Biliary Dyskinesia – This is also called a functional gallbladder disorder caused by an issue in your gallbladder’s ability to move bile out and into the appropriate bile ducts. This issue has the same effect as a gallstone but can cause bile to back up into your gallbladder, leading to chronic inflammation.
- Gangrene – Gangrene of the gallbladder is one of the more severe complications. It causes swelling and distention due to chronic inflammation, which can result in tissue death. Dead tissue is at risk of bursting or tearing. If you have a perforation in your gallbladder wall, it can put the rest of your abdominal cavity at risk of infection.
- Cholangiopathy – This is a disease of your bile ducts. It typically begins with inflammation of your bile ducts but can lead to temporary infection, blockage, or even a progressive autoimmune disorder. Cholangiopathy can result in the scarring and narrowing of your bile ducts, which can cause bile buildup in your gallbladder and liver.
How Common is Gallbladder Disease?
According to the America Gastroenterology Association, gallbladder disease is a common medical issue that affects approximately 25 million people in the US. For example, gallstones affect as much as 15% of the population. Gallbladder disease not associated with gallstones is much less common. However, this doesn’t reduce the danger posed by gallbladder disease. Essentially, you’re more likely to have gallbladder disease if you have gallstones. We’ve compiled a list of factors that increase your risk of getting gallstones and gallbladder diseases:
- High Cholesterol – Gallstones made of extra cholesterol are the most common type.
- Obesity and Overweight – Excess weight causes your body to overproduce cholesterol, especially if you have a body mass index over 30.
- Age – Unfortunately, as we age, we become more susceptible to gallstone disease, especially for patients over 60.
- Family History – Approximately 25% of gallbladder disease is relayed hereditary.
- Diabetes – Patients who have diabetes are approximately two to three times more likely to have gallstones, which increases their risk of gallbladder disease.
- Cirrhosis of the Liver – This late-stage liver disease is known to slow bile flow from your liver to your gallbladder.
- Crohn’s Disease – If you have Crohn’s Disease, you’re approximately twice as likely to develop gallstones due to your reduced ability to absorb bile salts that help eliminate cholesterol.
- Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs – While these medications help reduce cholesterol in your blood, it causes cholesterol to build up in your gallbladder.
How Does Gallbladder Disease Affect My Body?
When your gallbladder cannot function, bile cannot flow into your small intestines to help with digestion, and instead, it starts to build up in your blood. Bile is vital as it allows your small intestine to break down fats. Any interruptions to the breakdown process could result in digestive difficulties, especially when it comes to digesting fatty foods. Not only does bile help digest food and carry toxins your body has filtered out, but if left to build in your blood, it will make you sick. Suffering from gallbladder disease can also be intensely painful.
Signs of Gallbladder Disease
There are several symptoms of gallbladder disease to be on the lookout for. The mildest and most common gallbladder disease symptom is called biliary colic. Biliary colic is intermittent pain experienced by the patient, which is felt as a steady gripping or gnawing pain near the rib cage. This pain can cause nausea or vomiting if the pain is intense enough. Between one and three percent of individuals develop inflammation in the gallbladder. These gallbladder disease symptoms are similar to biliary colic but are more persistent and severe. Here are some additional symptoms you may have a gallbladder disease:
- Chest Pain
- Clay-Colored Stool
- Constantly Feeling Full
- Heartburn, Indigestion, and Excessive Gas
- Tenderness in the Abdomen
- Vomiting, Nausea, and Fever
How Do We Diagnose Gallbladder Disease?
Our first step when diagnosing gallbladder disease is to pinpoint the actual cause of the patient’s discomfort and pain. We’ll start by reviewing your medical history and your gallbladder disease symptoms. Our medical team must review your vital signs and observe any change in your heart rate, blood pressure, or even body temperature. Following that is a physical examination, looking for jaundice and swelling around your abdomen. Whether it’s painful to the touch or not helps distinguish between gallstone-related acute inflammation or cancer-related chronic inflammation. We’ll also perform a series of medical tests designed to help pinpoint the cause of your discomfort. Here are some of the medical tests we may perform:
- Complete Blood Count – This test is designed to look for high levels of white blood cells, which indicate an infection or inflammation.
- Liver Function Tests – The liver function test helps detect and determine if there are blockages in the bile ducts.
- Pancreas Function Tests – This is another test that can help detect a blockage of the pancreatic dust.
- Abdominal Ultrasound – This noninvasive imaging scan can reveal inflammation, blockages, or growths in your gallbladder.
- HIDA Scan – The HIDA scan is also known as a cholescintigraphy scan. The imaging test measures the emptying function of your gallbladder into the small intestine and bile flow through the bile ducts.
- Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – An imaging scan that combines x-ray technology with an endoscopy. During the examination, the endoscope is placed down your throat into your abdomen, which allows our medical team to see your organs. The x-ray helps visualize the bile ducts. If any blockage is revealed, our team may be able to treat it on sight by inserting instruments through the endoscope.
- Endoscopic Ultrasound – This is another endoscopic imaging scan combined with ultrasound technology. While the endoscopy is placed down your throat, the ultrasound technology produces images that help visualizes the bile ducts, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver.
Explore Our Gallbladder Disease Treatments
Depending on the diagnosis and the severity, it’s not uncommon to undergo surgery to remove the gallbladder as a whole. The procedure to remove the gallbladder is known as a cholecystectomy. If any gallstones are identified in the bile duct, additional procedures may be needed to remove any ductal obstruction. There are other options, such as:
- Antibiotics – If you have an infection, antibiotics will help clear and remove the infection. When a patient is scheduled for a cholecystectomy, this is often a precursor to surgical treatment.
- Endoscopic Intervention – If the gallbladder disease is minor, we may be able to use an endoscope to correct the issue before the results of surgery. When utilizing an endoscopy, we may be able to remove gallstones, place stents to open bile ducts, or even take tissue samples for biopsies.
- Surgery – This is the only permanent and effective solution for chronic and persistent gallbladder disease. Gallbladder removal is a standard treatment and can be done through minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery.
Discover the Benefits of Gallbladder Treatment for Yourself
Unfortunately, gallbladder disease can sneak up on patients, and by the time you experience symptoms, the issue may be severe. Most gallbladder diseases are easy treatment with minimally invasive surgery. The important thing to remember is that you must take your symptoms seriously. Please don’t wait for intense alarm symptoms, as the highly trained team at Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology has the skills and experience to quickly identify any gallbladder disease and correct the issue before it becomes a serious concern. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation. We’ll be happy to help restore your gallbladder and your peace of mind.Go back