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The Gallbladder and Gallstones

Located just below the lower right ribs, the gallbladder is an organ of the digestive system that is connected to the liver and acts as a reservoir for bile. The liver produces bile which passes to the gallbladder through the cystic duct. When stimulated, the gallbladder squirts concentrated bile into the small intestines where it aids in digestion by promoting peristalsis and absorption, preventing putrefaction, and emulsifying fat.

Gallstones are the major disorder of the gallbladder. Many people have gallstones and are never bothered by their presence. Symptoms of gallstones include acute pain felt just below the lower right ribs, sometimes traveling throughout the back. Gallstone attacks can be aggravated by the eating of fatty and spicy foods which stimulate the gallbladder to release bile. Small stones can be more problematic as they are more likely to become lodged in the ducts and cause pain. The presence of gallstones can be detected using ultrasound techniques also used on pregnant women to observe a fetus.

The cause of gallstones are believed to be the presence of excessive amounts of substances such as calcium or cholesterol in the bile and the retention of bile in the gallbladder for a long period of time.

The most common remedy for gallstones is the complete removal of the gallbladder, as the digestive process can function normally without it with little or no change in diet. Laparoscopic surgery allows the procedure to be less complicated with a quicker recovery. Many people confuse gallstones with kidney stones. Unlike kidney stones, gallstones are not usually passed, or "zapped" with lasers or ultrasound.

If you suspect you are having trouble with your gallbladder, see a doctor specializing in Gastrointestinal disorders.