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Blog / Gallbladder Health

Gallbladder Disease: the Basics

Sep. 30 2019 by Sheherzad Raza Preisler Blog Editor, PR, & Social Media Coordinator
Gallbladder Disease: the Basics

The gallbladder is a tiny, pear-shaped membranous sac responsible for storing and concentrating bile, which is a fluid produced by the liver that helps the small intestine digest food. There are a variety of disorders that can develop in the gallbladder.

According to Medline Plus, diseases often develop in the gallbladder if an artifact blocks the bile ducts through which bile flows; this is usually a gallstone, which forms when substances found in the bile become hard. There are two types of gallstones that may develop in your body: pigment gallstones and cholesterol gallstones. The former occurs if your bile contains bilirubin in too high of a concentration; these gallstones appear black or dark brown in color. The latter are the most common type of gallstone and are largely comprised of undissolved cholesterol; cholesterol gallstones are yellow in color.

In rare cases, cancer may also form in the gallbladder, but this type of cancer is very rare in the US.

In addition to gallstones, there are a variety of other things that may block the bile ducts and cause complications:

  • Parasitic infestation (in Asia)
  • Injury to the bile ducts during gallbladder surgery
  • Tumors in the gallbladder, pancreas, or bile ducts
  • Pancreatic disorders, which could narrow the bile ducts where they pass through the pancreas
  • Narrowing of the bile ducts caused by factors such as primary sclerosing cholangitis and AIDS-related infections

Medline Plus lists tests useful in diagnosing gallbladder issues:

  • Laparoscopy
  • Hepatobiliary nuclear medicine
  • Endoscopic ultrasonography
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography

The best way to know which approach is right for you is to speak with your physician first. The Ezra abdominal, torso, and full-body scans screen the gallbladder for cancerous and precancerous states, as well as other actionable conditions. You can learn more about our screening plans and payment options here.