Cholecystitis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located in the upper right side of the abdomen, beneath the liver. It plays a crucial role in the digestive system by storing bile, a substance produced by the liver to aid in the digestion of fats.
When the bile flow is obstructed or the gallbladder is infected, it can lead to inflammation and irritation of the gallbladder walls, causing cholecystitis. This condition can be acute or chronic, with acute cholecystitis referring to sudden, severe inflammation, typically triggered by the presence of gallstones, and chronic cholecystitis referring to long-term inflammation that can be caused by repeated episodes of acute cholecystitis or other underlying issues.
Symptoms of cholecystitis may include severe abdominal pain, especially in the upper right side, tenderness in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, fever, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). If left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to complications such as gallbladder rupture or the spread of infection to other parts of the body.
Treatment for cholecystitis may involve medication to relieve symptoms, antibiotics to treat any underlying infection, and in severe cases, surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). Managing the condition often requires lifestyle changes, such as adopting a low-fat diet and maintaining a healthy weight, to prevent further complications.
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Causes of Cholecystitis
Cholecystitis commonly occurs due to:
- Gallstones (cholelithiasis) – where small, hard stones form in the gallbladder, blocking the bile duct and causing inflammation.
- Bile duct blockage – other obstructions in the bile duct can lead to the build-up of bile and subsequent inflammation.
- Acute acalculous cholecystitis – this type of cholecystitis occurs without the presence of gallstones, often triggered by decreased blood flow to the gallbladder, infections, or injuries.
- Tumors – both benign and malignant tumors in the gallbladder or nearby organs can cause cholecystitis.
- Infections – bacterial or viral infections in the gallbladder can lead to inflammation.
- Autoimmune conditions – certain autoimmune disorders may cause the immune system to attack the gallbladder, resulting in cholecystitis.
- Abnormalities in the bile ducts – conditions affecting the bile ducts, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, can increase the risk of cholecystitis.
- Genetic factors – some individuals may have an increased susceptibility to developing cholecystitis due to their genetic makeup.
- Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Back pain between shoulder blades
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools