The gallbladder is attached to the liver and stores bile, which helps digest fats when released into the small intestine. Obstruction or slowing of the bile flow from this small organ leads to gallbladder disease such as gallstones (cholelithiasis) and gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis). A non-functioning gallbladder causes a range digestive problems along with persistent and radiating pain, and may require surgery.
Abdominal pain is a common sign of a gallbladder that is not functioning properly. The pain is typically felt on the right side or the middle of the abdomen, radiates towards the back, under the shoulder blades or in the chest and increases in severity. Consumption of fatty foods leads to intense pain that worsens after meals.
Bouts of nausea and vomiting are typically experienced during severe gallbladder attacks, and manifest after eating or drinking high fat foods or beverages. Bloating, indigestion and heartburn are also experienced after eating a fatty meal.
Patients with gallstones are likely to experience fever accompanied by chills and shaking. As these symptoms are also common with other illnesses, they may not be initially considered as signs of a non-functioning gallbladder.
A patient's course of treatment depends upon the type of gallbladder disease that is diagnosed. Pain from gallbladder conditions is generally treated with either over-the-counter or prescription medications. Gallstones or the gallbladder itself can also be removed to cure pain as well as illness associated with a non-functioning organ.
Few complication arise due to gallbladder conditions. However, patients with gallstones can become susceptible to infection. Rare complications of gallbladder-related problems include cancer, gallbladder polyps and primary sclerosing cholangitis, a condition that causes scarring and inflammation in the bile duct.