What is cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is an inflammatory condition usually caused by blockage of the bile duct leading from the gallbladder to the small intestine. The gallbladder is a small organ near the liver. Its purpose is to store bile, the digestive juice that helps break down fats in the small intestine. If there is an imbalance in the bile juice components, such as bile salt and cholesterol, deposits can form and create gallstones. When the gallstones block the bile duct leading to the small intestine, this causes swelling and may lead to infection of the gallbladder.

Causes of cholecystitis

While the most common cause of cholecystitis is gallstones, a blockage may also occur because of a tumor or from scar tissue in the bile ducts.

Symptoms of cholecystitis

Symptoms of cholecystitis may include:

  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Sharp, stubbing or dull pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Pain that radiates to the right shoulder or back

Who is at risk for cholecystitis?

You may be more at risk for cholecystitis if you have diabetes or are obese. Other risk factors include being:

  • Female
  • Pregnant
  • Treated with hormone therapy
  • Older age
  • Native American or Hispanic

Diagnosis and testing for cholecystitis

Accurate diagnosis of cholecystitis often includes blood tests as well as imaging tests, such as ultrasound, X-ray or CT scan to detect abnormalities.

Cholecystitis treatment options

Treatment may include antibiotics for infection, medication for pain, a low-fat diet, and in cases of gallstones, surgical removal of the gallbladder.



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