Gallbladder Disease in Women
What is it?
Gallstones are the most common gallbladder problem. Stones are
formed when substances that the gallbladder stores (cholesterol,
toxins, metabolized drugs, and substances made to digest fats,
which it puts out into the intestine through a duct) are concentrated
from their liquid form to become a solid. Stones, in and of
themselves, are not harmful. Many women have them for years and
never know. Stones can eventually lead to a gallbladder attack,
called cholecystitis (co-LEE-SIST-it-is). They can become
problematic after eating a fatty meal. The gallbladder will try to
expel its substances to digest the fats, but end up driving a
gallstone into the duct, blocking it instead.
When a gallstone becomes lodged in the duct, a woman typically
feels a severe, colicky pain on her right side, just under the ribs.
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms, as well. Fever may
be present. If a woman experiences these symptoms, she should
contact her doctor or go to an emergency room. A combination of
medications and surgery can prevent complications, such as
widespread infection, pancreas problems, or jaundice.
Fat, female, fertile, and forty. This is the classic textbook
description of a gallbladder attack patient. Although gallbladder
disease is not often thought of as a "women's disease," gallstones
are three times as likely in women as men.
Family history of gallbladder disease, being overweight and in your
forties, but not menopausal, having twinges of pain in the right
upper abdomen after eating a high fat meal, and discovering
gallstones incidentally on an x-ray taken for other reasons, are all
associated with a higher risk of gallbladder disease.