Understanding Your Gallbladder
It’s the most common digestive issue in the United States. Gallbladder disease can encompass a variety of problems.
Jaine Milligan, a nurse practitioner on staff at Lee Health, says the gallbladder is a four inch pear shaped organ that sits in the upper right corner of the abdomen, right under the liver. “The liver produces bile and the bile drips down into the gall bladder and it’s really an organ to store the bile. When we eat, the gallbladder squeezes and pushes the bile into the small intestine and that helps to break down the fat content of our food and start digestion.”
If a patient develops gallbladder disease they can have a range of problems from inflammation to gallstones. “We can get small hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder and those stones themselves can then over time become a problem,” said Milligan.
Most patients with gallstones show no symptoms, but there are those who experience pain, nausea, and vomiting. “It doesn’t happen every day. It can come and go and they will typically find that a fatty meal can trigger that,” said Milligan.
While the direct cause is unclear, Milligan says there are risk factors. If a patient is obese, has diabetes, high triglycerides, is pregnant, or if they’re using hormone replacement therapy they are at risk for developing gallbladder disease. Studies show about six percent of men and nine percent of women develop gallstones.
Patients without symptoms rarely have treatment. Once the symptoms start patients may undergo surgery to remove the gallbladder. “The liver is still going to produce bile and you’ll have a constant slow drip into the small intestine so that you can emulsify the fat in your food,” said Milligan.
Without a gallbladder, patients need to be cautious of eating a fatty meal.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health – Caring People. Inspiring Care.