Cholecystitis (ko-luh-sis-TIE-tis) is inflammation of the gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid that’s released into your small intestine (bile).
In most cases, gallstones blocking the tube leading out of your gallbladder cause cholecystitis. This results in a bile buildup that can cause inflammation. Other causes of cholecystitis include bile duct problems and tumors.
If left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening complications, such as a gallbladder rupture. Treatment for cholecystitis often involves gallbladder removal.
Cholecystitis occurs when your gallbladder becomes inflamed. Gallbladder inflammation can be caused by:
- Gallstones. Most cholecystitis is the result of hard particles that develop in your gallbladder (gallstones) from imbalances in the substances in bile, such as cholesterol and bile salts. Gallstones can block the cystic duct — the tube through which bile flows when it leaves the gallbladder — causing bile to build up and resulting in inflammation.
- Tumor. A tumor may prevent bile from draining out of your gallbladder properly, causing bile buildup that can lead to cholecystitis.
- Bile duct blockage. Kinking or scarring of the bile ducts can cause blockages that lead to cholecystitis.
Signs and symptoms of cholecystitis may include:
- Severe pain in your upper right abdomen
- Pain that radiates from to your right shoulder or back
- Tenderness over your abdomen when it’s touched
Cholecystitis signs and symptoms often occur after a meal, particularly a large or fatty meal.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have worrisome signs or symptoms. For abdominal pain so severe you can’t sit still or get comfortable, have someone drive you to the emergency room.