Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid that's released into your small intestine (bile). In most cases, gallstones blocking the tube leading out of your gallbladder cause cholecystitis. This results in a bile buildup that can cause inflammation. Other causes of cholecystitis include bile duct problems and tumors.
If left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening complications, such as a gallbladder rupture. Treatment for cholecystitis often involves gallbladder removal.
The main symptoms of a cholecystitis include:
- Severe pain in your upper right abdomen.
- Pain that radiates from to your right shoulder or back.
- Tenderness over your abdomen when it's touched.
Cholecystitis signs and symptoms often occur after a meal, particularly a large or fatty meal.
Cholecystitis occurs when your gallbladder becomes inflamed. Gallbladder inflammation can be caused by:
- Gallstones. Most cholecystitis is the result of hard particles that develop in your gallbladder (gallstones) from imbalances in the substances in bile, such as cholesterol and bile salts. Gallstones can block the cystic duct — the tube through which bile flows when it leaves the gallbladder — causing bile to build up and resulting in inflammation.
- Tumor. A tumor may prevent bile from draining out of your gallbladder properly, causing bile buildup that can lead to cholecystitis.
- Bile duct blockage. Kinking or scarring of the bile ducts can cause blockages that lead to cholecystitis.
Cholecystitis can lead to a number of serious complications, including:
- Infection within the gallbladder. If bile builds up within your gallbladder, causing cholecystitis, the bile may become infected.
- Death of gallbladder tissue. Untreated cholecystitis can cause tissue in the gallbladder to die, which in turn can lead to a tear in the gallbladder, or it may cause your gallbladder to burst.
- Torn gallbladder. A tear in your gallbladder may result from gallbladder enlargement or infection.
Care and Treatment
You can reduce your risk of cholecystitis by taking the following steps to prevent gallstones:
- Lose weight slowly. Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of gallstones. If you need to lose weight, aim to lose 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to about 1 kilogram) a week.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increase the risk of gallstones. To achieve a healthy weight, reduce calories and increase the physical activity. Maintain a healthy weight by continuing to eat well and exercise.
- Choose a healthy diet. Diets high in fat and low in fiber may increase the risk of gallstones. To reduce your risk of gallstones, choose a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
When to Call the Doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have signs or symptoms. For abdominal pain so severe you can't sit still or get comfortable, have someone drive you to the emergency room.