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Cholecystitis

Cholecystitis (ko-luh-sis-TIE-tis) is inflammation of the gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid that's released into your small intestine (bile).

In most cases, gallstones blocking the tube leading out of your gallbladder cause cholecystitis. This results in a bile buildup that can cause inflammation. Other causes of cholecystitis include bile duct problems and tumors.

If left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening complications, such as a gallbladder rupture. Treatment for cholecystitis often involves gallbladder removal.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of cholecystitis may include:

  • Severe pain in your upper right abdomen
  • Pain that radiates from to your right shoulder or back
  • Tenderness over your abdomen when it's touched
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Cholecystitis signs and symptoms often occur after a meal, particularly a large or fatty meal.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have worrisome signs or symptoms. For abdominal pain so severe you can't sit still or get comfortable, have someone drive you to the emergency room.

Cholecystitis occurs when your gallbladder becomes inflamed. Gallbladder inflammation can be caused by:

  • Gallstones. Most cholecystitis is the result of hard particles that develop in your gallbladder  (gallstones) from imbalances in the substances in bile, such as cholesterol and bile salts. Gallstones can block the cystic duct — the tube through which bile flows when it leaves the gallbladder — causing bile to build up and resulting in inflammation.
  • Tumor. A tumor may prevent bile from draining out of your gallbladder properly, causing bile buildup that can lead to cholecystitis.
  • Bile duct blockage. Kinking or scarring of the bile ducts can cause blockages that lead to cholecystitis.

Having gallstones is the main risk factor for developing cholecystitis.

Cholecystitis can lead to a number of serious complications, including:

  • Infection within the gallbladder. If bile builds up within your gallbladder, causing cholecystitis, the bile may become infected.
  • Death of gallbladder tissue. Untreated cholecystitis can cause tissue in the gallbladder to die, which in turn can lead to a tear in the gallbladder, or it may cause your gallbladder to burst.
  • Torn gallbladder. A tear in your gallbladder may result from gallbladder enlargement or infection.

You can reduce your risk of cholecystitis by taking the following steps to prevent gallstones:

  • Lose weight slowly. Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of gallstones. If you need to lose weight, aim to lose 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to about 1 kilogram) a week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increase the risk of gallstones. To achieve a healthy weight, reduce calories and increase the physical activity. Maintain a healthy weight by continuing to eat well and exercise.
  • Choose a healthy diet. Diets high in fat and low in fiber may increase the risk of gallstones. To reduce your risk of gallstones, choose a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
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