5 Eye-Opening Myths & Facts About Cholecystitis You Should Know


Contributed by: Rachana Arya


What is cholecystitis?

The medical term for inflammation (swelling) of the gallbladder is called Cholecystitis (ko-luh-sis-TIE-tis). The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile – a fluid made by the liver to aid digestion – and to release it after you eat a meal.

It normally happens because a gallstone gets stuck at the opening of the gallbladder, or a tumor, or scarring of the bile ducts, or certain viral infections that lead to the condition. Untreated, it can sometimes result in severe life-threatening complications. Signs and symptoms are often triggered by a meal, particularly a large or fatty one. Symptoms of cholecystitis may include:


      • Pain in the right upper quadrant 
      • Radiating pain to the right shoulder blade and/or back
      • Tenderness over the abdomen 
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Mild fever and chills 
      • Abdominal bloating
      • Little or no appetite


Common myths about cholecystitis

From the disease to the treatment methods, there are several myths that surround cholecystitis. Dispelling those common misconceptions – some of which are contradictory and unsafe – is important as these myths can hinder proper treatment. Here we untangle some of this misinformation in order to empower patients in making an informed choice and explain the best approaches for managing the inflammatory condition.


Myth #1: Gallstones are the one and only cause of cholecystitis


While gallstones are the chief reasons for cholecystitis, it is important to remember that there are multiple other causes that may also have an effect on gallbladder outcomes, which may include:


      • Serious illnesses, such as HIV or diabetes
      • Tumors of the gallbladder (rare)


Some people are more at risk for gallstones. Risk factors include:


        • Being female
        • Pregnancy
        • Hormone therapy
        • Older age
        • Being Native American or Hispanic
        • Obesity
        • Losing or gaining weight rapidly
        • Diabetes


Myth #2: Removal of the gallbladder can cause severe digestive issues


A gallbladder is one organ you can live without. To live a normal and healthy life, a gallbladder is not really required. No significant digestive activity stops with the removal of this organ. The liver can send adequate amounts of bile, through the bile ducts directly to the small intestine, without having to enter the gallbladder first. So, after having gallbladder removal surgery, most patients do not have any major problems eating or digesting food.


Myth #3: Dietary intake of fat has to be completely eliminated in cholecystitis


It is a common misconception among people that they need to remove all fat from their diet if they have gallbladder disease. This is usually not necessary. While it is true that fatty foods can cause the gallbladder to contract, setting off your symptoms again, however, good fats or unsaturated fats do not harm the body when taken in the right quantities. An intake of fish, tofu, and milk is in fact good for the health of the gallbladder. Therefore, consuming a diet that is lower in fat (but still has some quantities of fat) is often recommended to try and reduce post-surgery symptoms. Even after the surgery to remove the gallbladder, approximately three grams of fat is recommended per day.


Myth #4: Consumption of hormonal medicines has nothing to do with cholecystitis


This is a myth. Several epidemiological studies have indicated a causal association between estrogen therapy and gallstone disease. The study established that there is an increased risk of cholecystitis among participants taking medications that can control the hormonal balance, including oral contraceptive (OC) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  While the results were inconsistent and controversial, nevertheless, it is better to consume them with the approval of the doctor.


Myth #5: The gallbladder cannot be removed when you are pregnant


While the surgery is during pregnancy is often feared and at times postponed, medical science ensures safer removal of the organ. Although, it can be quite scary and painful for pregnant women to experience cholecystitis, nevertheless, most gynecologists recommend this medically necessary surgery regardless of the trimester. This is the second most common non-obstetrical surgery during pregnancy. The most common is appendix removal.


When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor regarding your options of treatment, which are either surgical removal of the gallbladder or dissolving gallstones through appropriate medications. That said, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if you notice symptoms of serious gallbladder stone complications, like:


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