Gallstone Symptoms in Women and Men

There are many different body organs in the human body and each and every one of them is designated to perform a particular function. Some organs like the heart, lungs, and intestines are easy enough to understand because they are very common and almost everyone knows what they do and why they are important. But less popular body organs such as the pancreas, appendix, and gallbladder aren’t always that clear to us with regards to their functions and importance. The gallbladder, for one, is a very misunderstood part of the human body because of the “bladder” in its name.

What does the gallbladder do?

The gallbladder is responsible for the production of bile. It is a very small body organ which injects bile into the intestines when needed. It only passes out bile to the intestine when there is a very high fat or cholesterol content in the food that we have eaten and the intestine needs help in digesting it. The gallbladder processes bile and keeps it stored while not in use. This means that the organ only exerts bile when necessary.

What is the most common gallbladder disorder?

Gallstones are by far the most prevalent disease that people can acquire in the gallbladder. It is a very common problem in women, but men are also very likely to acquire them given the right conditions. Gallstones are formed in two ways. The first one is when there is too much cholesterol in the bile, forming cholesterol stones. The second one is when there is too much bilirubin in the bile, forming pigment stones. Both have the same symptoms and create the same effects in the body.

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

Even if gallstones are more common in women, especially those who are pregnant or are taking birth control pills, the symptoms for both women and men are basically the same. These include:

  • Extreme pain in the upper right part of the abdomen which lasts for several minutes to hours
  • Pain at the upper back between the shoulder blades
  • Pain under the right shoulder

Are gallstone symptoms always the same?

Basically, if the gallstones are already moving and are making their way out of the gallbladder, those are the only instances when these symptoms occur. The reason for this is that the gallstones can cause blockage of the different ducts in the body, including the bile injecting duct and some ducts in the liver and pancreas. However, if the gallstones are only present in the gallbladder and they have not yet moved out of the organ, they may not have any symptoms at all. These are called “silent stones” just like kidney stones when they are stationary. The problem only begins when the stones cause any form of blockage in the body. Unless this happens, these gallstones are virtually harmless.

How serious can gallstones become?

Under the worst conditions, gallstones can produce symptoms which are similar to that of a heart attack or appendicitis. The problem may be because of large stones blocking several ducts in the body. If this happens, serious complications may take place. There are several diseases which may follow gallstone formation if it is not treated properly.

  1. Cholecystitis – the inflammation of the gallbladder caused by the blockage of the cystic duct
  2. Cholangitis – infection of the biliary duct
  3. Gangrene – loss of blood flow in the gallbladder causes it to erupt and cause a rupture in the abdomen
  4. Jaundice – the accumulation of bilirubin in the body
  5. Pancreatitis – the inflammation of the pancreas
  6. Sepsis – the infection of the blood