The Acute Cholecystitis
Acute cholecystitis is an inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is an organ that sits below your liver and helps your body digest fat. Cholecystitis can become very severe and in most cases requires immediate medical attention. See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have acute cholecystitis. This condition is can become chronic if it persists for a prolonged period of time or if you are having recurring symptoms from the inflammation.
Causes of the acute cholecystitis
The gallbladder is an organ that sits below the liver. It stores bile, which your body uses to digest fats in the small intestine.
Acute cholecystitis occurs when bile becomes trapped in the gallbladder. This often happens because a gallstone blocks the cystic duct, the tube through which bile travels into and out of the gallbladder. When a stone blocks this duct, bile builds up, causing irritation and pressure in the gallbladder. This can lead to swelling and infection.
Other causes include:
- Serious illnesses, such as HIV or diabetes
- Tumors of the gallbladder (rare)
Some people are more at risk for gallstones. Risk factors include:
- Being female
- Hormone therapy
- Older age
- Being Native American or Hispanic
- Losing or gaining weight rapidly
Sometimes the bile duct becomes blocked temporarily. When this occurs repeatedly, it can lead to chronic cholecystitis. This is swelling and irritation that continues over time. Eventually, the gallbladder becomes thick and hard. It does not store and release bile as well as it did.
Symptoms of the acute cholecystitis
The main symptom is pain in the upper right side or upper middle of your belly that usually lasts at least 30 minutes. You may feel:
- Sharp, cramping, or dull pain
- Steady pain
- Pain that spreads to your back or below your right shoulder blade
Other symptoms that may occur include:
- Clay-colored stools
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
Diagnosis of the acute cholecystitis
The symptoms of acute cholecystitis can resemble many other illnesses. Your doctor will want to know about your medical history as well as your symptoms. They’ll probably check your abdomen for swelling or tender areas. They may order additional tests, such as the following:
- Abdominal ultrasounds use sound waves to create an image of your organs. This is the most commonly ordered imaging test that’s used to diagnose cholecystitis.
- Hepatobiliary scintigraphy is a procedure that creates an image of the upper portion of your small intestine, liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts.
- Cholangiography uses dye injected into your bile ducts to show the gallbladder and bile ducts on an X-ray.
- CT scans are computerized images used to create images of your internal organs.
Your doctor may need to run more tests if you’ve been diagnosed with acute cholecystitis. These tests may include a liver function test and a complete blood count test.