Heartburn vs Gallbladder

Is it Heartburn or my Gallbladder?

The symptoms of heartburn and gallbladder trouble are so similar that patients may not be sure which problem they’re experiencing. Both conditions can be caused by eating rich, fatty food, lying down too soon after a meal, and carrying excess weight. A closer evaluation can help physicians understand which problem is causing the pain.

What’s the Gallbladder?

The gallbladder sits beneath the liver in the right upper abdomen. The liver produces bile, a liquid that breaks down fat, and passes it to your gallbladder for storage. When a person eats, the gallbladder sends bile to the small intestine, where it mixes with the hormone cholecystokinin to finish digesting the fats.

Most people don’t know much about the gallbladder until they start to have problems with it. Sometimes tiny bits of bile and cholesterol harden inside the gallbladder forming gallstones which can lead to a blockage of a bile duct. When bile builds up due to a blockage, it can cause a gallbladder attack.

While the gallbladder serves an important function, you can live without it. Physicians sometimes recommend that patients who experience persistent gallbladder problems have it removed. After gallbladder surgery, the body adapts and uses the bile ducts that normally transport bile as units for storage.

Comparing Symptoms

The pain from a gallbladder attack starts suddenly at the gallbladder, and the pain may spread into the shoulder and back. It remains steady for up to an hour and then goes away. Patients may experience fever, chills, and loose stool. The symptoms of gallstones are similar, but the pain may occur for a period of months, even years.

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, usually occurs soon after eating, but it also may flare up in the night, awakening sleepers with pain in the chest or throat. Symptoms include trouble swallowing, a cough that won’t go away, and a burning feeling in the abdomen. Patients say they often have an acid taste in their mouth and a sore throat that’s always present. It may affect the voice, causing laryngitis. Dietary changes, weight loss, and medication treat the symptoms of heartburn but surgery is the only permanent way to stop gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is responsible for heartburn.

When You Experience Gallbladder Problems

Gallbladder surgery, called a cholecystectomy, is often the best choice for patients who produce gallstones. A surgeon can perform minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery by making four small incisions and using a tiny video camera and specialized tools to remove the stones. The procedure requires general anesthesia, and most patients go home the same day.

If your doctor has told you that you have gallstones or that you have an inflamed gallbladder and that it should be removed, schedule an appointment with Dr. Malladi today.