Cholecystitis (Confirmed)

Front view of liver, gallbladder, and stomach.

Your belly (abdominal) pain is due to an inflammation and possible infection in the gallbladder. This is called cholecystitis.

The gallbladder is a small sac under the liver that stores and releases bile. Bile is a fluid made in the liver that helps you digest fat. Eating fatty food stimulates the gallbladder to contract, and release the bile.

A gallstone may form in this sac. Most people don't have symptoms. But if the stone moves and blocks bile from leaving the bladder, it can cause pain and even infection. Bile sludge without a stone can also cause cholecystitis.

Several things increase the risk of developing gallstones:

  • Being a woman

  • Being obese

  • Being older

  • Losing or gaining weight quickly

  • Having a high-calorie diet

  • Being pregnant

  • Using hormone therapy

  • Having diabetes

The most common symptoms are:

  • Belly pain, cramping, and aching in the upper middle and right side of the belly

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Fever

Many illnesses can cause these symptoms. This pain usually starts in the upper right side of your belly. Sometimes it can spread to your right shoulder, back, and arm. It often starts suddenly, becomes more intense quickly, and then slowly decreases and disappears over a couple of hours. Older adults and people with diabetes may have trouble showing exactly where the pain is. The pain often occurs after meals, especially after eating fatty foods. 

Home care

  • Rest in bed and follow a clear liquid diet until the pain, nausea, and vomiting have gone away. Antibiotics and other medicine may be prescribed. Take this exactly as directed.

  • You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, unless you were given a different pain medicine to use. Talk with your provider before using these medicines if you:

    • Have chronic liver or kidney disease

    • Ever had a stomach ulcer or GI (gastrointestinal) bleeding

    • Are taking blood-thinner medicines

  • Fat in your diet makes the gallbladder contract and may cause increased pain. Don't have any fat in your diet over the next 2 days. Follow a low-fat diet after that. If you are overweight, a low-fat diet will help you lose weight.

Follow-up care

An infection in the gallbladder is a serious problem and must be watched carefully. See your healthcare provider in the next 1 to 2 days, or as directed. Once cholecystitis has occurred, you often will need to have your gallbladder removed to keep the condition from happening again. You can talk with your provider about this at your follow-up visit. If you were hospitalized for the cholecystitis, your gallbladder may be removed during the same hospitalization.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Repeated vomiting

  • Belly swelling

  • Pain that lasts more than 6 hours

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Shaking chills

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Dark urine or light-colored stools (gray or clay-colored)

  • Yellow color of the skin or eyes (jaundice)

  • Chest, arm, back, neck, or jaw pain

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