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The gallbladder is a small organ that sits below the liver and works to store and concentrate a substance known as bile. The two most commonly diagnosed gallbladder problems are inflammation and the development of gallstones. Other potential problems include polyps or tumors, birth defects, or gangrene. Any questions or concerns about gallbladder problems or individualized treatment methods should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
Gallbladder inflammation, a condition medically referred to as cholecystitis, is one of the leading causes of gallbladder problems. This inflammation is typically caused by the presence of gallstones, making the symptoms of each condition nearly identical. Gallstones resemble pebbles and may be made from cholesterol deposits or may form as a result of too much bilirubin in the bile, which is stored in the gallbladder.
Some of the most common symptoms of gallstones, or the resulting gallbladder inflammation, include severe abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. Initial treatment for these conditions usually involves the use of intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and pain medications. If the condition is severe or is a recurrent problem, surgical removal of the gallbladder may become necessary.
Polyps or tumors may sometimes cause gallbladder problems. These formations are rarely cancerous, although gallbladder cancer is possible. Smaller tumors may be able to be removed while leaving the gallbladder intact. In other situations, the gallbladder may be surgically removed. In cases of gallbladder cancer, chemotherapy or radiation treatment may be used.
Certain birth defects may cause the gallbladder to form improperly. These defects may lead to the formation of multiple cysts, abnormal positioning of the organ, or improper functioning abilities. These congenital defects may vary in severity, and treatment must be very individualized. In many cases, the gallbladder is removed, especially if there is a significant amount of pain associated with the condition. Some doctors prefer to delay surgical intervention as long as possible when very young children are involved.
Gangrene is among the most dangerous of the potential gallbladder problems that may occur and is considered a medical emergency. Gangrene is a type of potentially fatal infection that can quickly spread through the entire body if the gallbladder leaks or ruptures. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and a drop in blood pressure. Treatment involves immediate surgical removal of the gallbladder and intravenous antibiotic therapy. The patient with this type of complication will often spend a few days in a hospital setting under close medical observation.
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