The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile. It is attached to your digestive system by a system of hollow ducts called the biliary tree.
The gallbladder sits in an indenture underneath the right lobe of the liver. It is about one inch wide and three inches long, and tapered at one end where it connects to the cystic duct. It is a muscular organ that contracts when bile is needed, and forces the enzyme through the cystic duct.
Fat is difficult to digest. It resists being broken down into usable energy. Bile is a strong enzyme that assists in breaking fats down. When the food you eat contains fat, the stomach and duodenum secrete a substance that stimulates the gallbladder to contract, thereby forcing bile into the digestive tract. Bile emulsifies the fat, making it available for energy production.
Gallbladder conditions share similar symptoms. These include:
Pain: The most common symptom of a gallbladder problem is pain. This pain usually occurs in the mid- to upper-right section of your abdomen.
It can be mild and intermittent, or it can be quite severe and frequent. In some cases, the pain can begin to radiate to other areas of the body, including the back and chest.
Nausea or vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of all types of gallbladder problems. However, only chronic gallbladder disease may cause digestive problems, such as acid reflux and gas.
Fever or chills: Chills or an unexplained fever may signal that you have an infection. If you have an infection, you need treatment before it worsens and becomes dangerous. The infection can become life-threatening if it spreads to other parts of the body.
Chronic diarrhea: Having more than four bowel movements per day for at least three months may be a sign of chronic gallbladder disease.
Jaundice: Yellow-tinted skin, or jaundice, may be a sign of a block or stone in the common bile duct. The common bile duct is the channel that leads from the gallbladder to the small intestine.
Unusual stools or urine: Lighter-colored stools and dark urine are possible signs of a common bile duct block.