Encyclopedia

Cholecystitis

What is cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is an inflammation of the gallbladder – a small organ near the liver that has an important function in digestion. Normally, a fluid called bile flows from the gallbladder to the small intestine. If the movement of bile fluid is blocked, it accumulates in the gallbladder, causing swelling, pain and possible infection.

What are the symptoms of cholecystitis?

The most characteristic symptom is pain in the upper right part of the abdomen. Other possible symptoms are:

  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Tenderness in the right side of the abdomen;
  • Fever;
  • Pain that increases with deeper breathing;
  • Pain lasting more than 6 hours and worse after eating;
  • Elderly people may not feel pain or their temperature may be elevated. Their only symptom then is tenderness in the abdomen.

What are the causes?

The most common cause of acute cholecystitis is a stone stuck in the bile duct. Blocked outflow of bile through the bile duct to the pancreas leads to swelling and inflammation of the gallbladder. Infection or trauma, such as from a car accident, can also cause the gallbladder to swell and become inflamed.

A malignant tumor can obstruct the normal flow of bile and cause the gallbladder to swell. Complications from another serious illness, such as HIV or diabetes, may also cause swelling.

Chronic cholecystitis is another form of the disease – it develops when the gallbladder remains swollen for a long time and this leads to hardening and thickening of its walls.

Treatment of cholecystitis

Treatment depends on the symptoms and general health of the affected person. People who have gallstones but do not have any symptoms usually do not need treatment.

For milder cases, treatment consists in resting the digestive system by not eating anything for several days. Fluids are infused intravenously, antibiotics and painkillers are administered if necessary.

The main treatment consists of an operation to remove the gallbladder /cholecystectomy/. In most cases, the operation is performed by making small incisions in the abdomen /laparoscopic cholecystectomy/. The doctor may try to reduce swelling and irritation in the gallbladder before removing it.

Sometimes the acute form of the disease is caused by one or more gallstones that have blocked the common bile duct. Treatment may also consist of performing an endoscopic procedure /endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography/ to remove stones in the common bile duct before proceeding with the removal of the gallbladder.

In rare cases of the chronic form of the disease, a drug can be prescribed that dissolves the gallstones and that you take for a long time.

How to protect yourself?

The most effective way to protect yourself is to prevent the formation of gallstones.

It has been established that high cholesterol is among the risk factors for the formation of gallstones. It is recommended to avoid foods with a high cholesterol content such as:

  • Sausages and other processed meats;
  • Oil and lard;
  • Cakes and biscuits.

Foods with low in fat and high in fiber. This includes eating whole grains and at least 5 servings daily of fresh fruits and vegetables.

There is evidence that regularly eating nuts such as peanuts and cashews reduces the risk of gallstones. Being overweight is also a risk factor, but normalize your weight gradually.

Do not undergo extreme low-calorie diets, because with such a diet you can disrupt the process of enterohepatic recirculation and thus stimulate the formation of gallstones.

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