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Changes in the Normal Size of a Gallbladder: How Can it Affect Our Health?

Changes in the Normal Size of a Gallbladder: How Can it Affect Our Health?

The gallbladder is a hollow organ that is roughly as big as a pear that sits beneath the liver. For adults, gallbladder sizes are usually no more than 7 to 10 centimeters in length and 4 centimeters in diameter. The gallbladder is part of the biliary system, which consists of the gallbladder, bile ducts, and liver. This system creates, stores, and secretes bile, which helps emulsify the fat or lipids stored in the food we eat.

normal size of gallbladder

Causes of Gallbladder Size Changing Conditions

Changes to the normal size of the gallbladder are usually caused by the formation of gallstones in the organ.

Gallstones, or crystal-like gallbladder deposits, can cause a change in the normal size of the gallbladder. They can sometimes irritate the gallbladder or its ducts. This may lead to infection, inflammation, and abdominal pain for patients. The same infections may also spread to the liver or the pancreas.

Cholecystitis can be another factor that alters the normal size of the Gallbladder; it is the result of inflammation. This swelling happens when the cystic duct is unable to expel gallstones.

Cholecystitis, in its most general sense, is a painful condition that usually requires a trip to the hospital for treatment.

Symptoms and Treatment of Gallbladder Size Changing Conditions

For gallstones, signs and symptoms usually only appear when the size of the stones themselves is larger than usual, or around 5-10 millimeters in diameter. A majority of people that have gallstones do not feel its consequences or are unaware of it being in their bodies. The first signs are typically pain in the upper right side of your abdomen. This pain is at most times sudden and severely painful.

Symptoms of gallstones also include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • indigestion
  • light-colored stool
  • jaundice or yellowish skin
  • some may also initially present with yellowing of the whites of their eyes

Treatment for gallstones is usually surgery in the form of a cholecystectomy, which is the surgical removal of the gallstone from your body.

For Cholecystitis, signs and symptoms may be different, depending on whether the patient is experiencing Acute Cholecystitis or Chronic Cholecystitis.

Acute symptoms are characterized by a sudden onset of pain and discomfort. This pain is located around the upper right side of the abdomen. It often spreads to the shoulder and back, and a vast majority of acute cholecystitis is caused by gallstones.

Chronic symptoms are almost the same as acute but prolonged and repeatedly cause pain and inflammation for the patient. However, the pain experienced by chronic patients is not as severe and painful as that experienced by acute cholecystitis patients.

Timing of symptoms can also be an important clue. This may sometimes occur after ingestion of a fatty oily meal or a heavy meal.

In general, however, examples of symptoms of Cholecystitis include:

  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Nausea, vomiting and bloating
  • Fever above 38 degrees celsius which may include chills
  • Abdominal pain that spikes when taking deep breaths or eating

Treatment for Cholecystitis almost always involves the surgical removal of either the Gallstones or the Gallbladder itself, but includes alternative solutions such as fasting, drainage of the Gallbladder, and the intake of antibiotics.

Key Takeaways

Changes to the normal size of the gallbladder are most commonly caused by the development of Gallstones, which usually contain digestive fluids, which may contain excess components such as cholesterol or bilirubin.

While it may be frustrating for patients since it is usually hard to detect Gallstones, we can take action to lower the chances of you having to deal with a Gallstone. Consult your doctor for the best approach.

Learn more about gallbladder disease, here.

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

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Written by Amable Aguiluz Updated 2 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, M.D.