Cholelithiasis/ Cholecystitis

What is cholelithiasis/cholecystitis?
Cholelithiasis is the presence of gallstones in the gallbladder.  The gallbladder stores bile from the liver and then releases it to help aid in fat absorption.  Gallstones form when the gallbladder is unable to pump the bile out effectively.  Cholecystitis is caused when the gallbladder becomes inflamed.  The inflammation is caused when the gallstones block the duct that releases the bile.

Signs and symptoms
Right upper abdominal pain/tenderness, fatty stools, light or chalky colored stools, constipation and/or diarrhea, indigestion after eating (especially fatty foods), nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, burping, bitter fluid comes up after eating.  During a “gallbladder attack” pain can be severe and radiate through the back and to the right shoulder.  Pain is often at night and occurs after overeating, but may not always follow a meal that is fatty or greasy.  Attacks can last from 15 minutes to 15 hours.

Risk factors
Risk factors that can cause gallstones can include obesity, rapid weight loss, pregnancy, and diabetes.  Women and the elderly are at more risk than men to develop gallstones.  Also, the use of cholesterol lowering medications can increase the risk of gallstones.

What happens next?
Your doctor will need to know you have gallstones.  Your doctor may want additional tests or refer you to a surgeon.  You may need to have your gallbladder removed if it is not functioning properly.  If you do not have any symptoms, your doctor may simply wish to observe.

Who do I contact with any additional questions?
You can contact your family doctor who referred you for the screening.