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Contracted Gallbladder: Symptoms, Risks, Complications, and Treatment

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Sep 20, 2023

Contracted Gallbladder: Symptoms, Risks, Complications, and Treatment

When the small sac-like organ, the gallbladder, becomes inflamed, it contracts. This type of swelling and irritation of the bladder is called cholecystitis. There are two kinds of cholecystitis namely, acute cholecystitis and chronic cholecystitis. The contraction or shrinkage of the gallbladder falls under chronic cholecystitis. 

Chronic cholecystitis is a low-level inflammation of the gallbladder and the typical duration of this is quite long. This will eventually lead to shrinkage or a contracted gallbladder, and once that happens, the organ will lose its ability to store bile and release it. 

Symptoms of a Contracted Bladder 

Chronic cholecystitis happens due to repetitive attacks of acute cholecystitis. So at first, a person will experience the symptoms of acute cholecystitis and these are:

  • Steady pain that lasts for 30 minutes 
  • Fever and chills 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting 
  • Pain is felt in the center of the upper abdomen
  • Pain can also be felt on the areas of the back or below the right shoulder blade
  • Stool colors are pale and gray in color 
  • Urine is dark 
  • Jaundice (a condition that makes the eyes or skin yellow) happens when gallstones exit the gallbladder and enter the common bile duct and what this does is block the flow of the bile from the liver. 

Causes of Contracted Gallbladder 

The main cause of a contracted gallbladder is a series of attacks of acute cholecystitis. Then there are also other causes of a contracted gallbladder, please refer to the list below:

  • Gallstones. Another common cause of contracted gallbladders is the formation of hard particles on the gallbladder and these are called gallstones. The size of gallstones varies from tiny grains to big-sized golf balls. The small particles are the ones that can cause more harm as well. 

contracted gallbladder

Gallstones can cause infection in the gallbladder itself, and once the gallstones have blocked the common bile duct, this could cause irritation on the pancreas or cause jaundice. 

  • Bile duct blockage. The blockage of bile ducts will eventually cause jaundice (yellowing of the skin). The yellow pigment that begins to show on a person’s skin is because of the increased level of bilirubin in the blood. 
  • Tumor. Tumors can hinder bile from exiting the gallbladder and that will result in bile build-up and ultimately lead to cholecystitis. 
  • Blood vessel problems. If a person has existing blood vessel problems then that may cause a threat to the gallbladder as it will decrease the blood flow to the organ and eventually lead to cholecystitis. 
  • Infection. Another cause for the gallbladder to become inflamed is infections. Infections such as AIDS, chickenpox, shingles, HPV, and other viral infections. 

Risks of Having a Contracted Gallbladder 

The main risk of having a contracted gallbladder would be the formation of gallstones. Although gallstones in themselves are not dangerous, they can become one. Below are some factors to consider when it comes to individuals who are more at risk of having gallstones:

  • Being over 40 years old
  • Being a female
  • Pregnancy
  • Individuals diagnosed with liver disease
  • Being obese or overweight 
  • Low-fiber diets
  • Being seated often 
  • High-fat diet
  • High-cholesterol diet
  • Blood disorders
  • Individuals diagnosed with diabetes
  • People who lose weight very quickly 
  • Medications such as estrogen or any type of contraceptive 
  • Being Native American and Hispanic 
  • History of having gallstones in the family 

Complications of Having a Contracted Gallbladder 

Here are the complications of having a contracted gallbladder:

  • Blockage of the common bile duct. 
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Inflammation of the gallbladder 
  • Blockage of pancreatic duct

Treatments for Contracted Gallbladder 

Usually, the treatment for a contracted gallbladder would be hospitalization or, in some cases, surgery.

In order to treat the infection of the gallbladder, antibiotics are given directly onto a vein, and this fights off symptoms like abdominal pain and nausea. 

As for chronic cholecystitis, the gallbladder itself must be removed through surgery. Also, the gallstones that have formed in the gallbladder must also be surgically removed. Some people may opt to have their gallstones removed through a process called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or ERCP for short. 

This process is done by having a unique flexible telescope that is inserted in the mouth and passes down through the stomach onto an opening where bile is emptied into the intestines. However, this process is not always possible so health professionals recommend having gallstones removed surgically. 

Key Takeaways

Chronic cholecystitis can cause the walls of the gallbladder to thicken, shrink or contract, and then lose function. If not treated right away, this will surely cause serious complications. 

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, do not hesitate to seek medical attention.

Learn more about gallbladder disease, here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Sep 20, 2023

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