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Gallbladder Disease: Physical Examination And Diagnostic Testing

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If you have gallbladder disease, early intervention will help ensure that your symptoms improve and that the disease does not progress. Gallbladder diseases such as gallstones are more common in women, however, they are not unusual in men. Here are some ways your physician can rule out or confirm gallbladder disease during your doctors' office visit.

Medical History And Examination

Your doctor will talk to you about your medical history. They will ask you about your symptoms, and if you reveal that you have pain in the upper part of your abdomen that radiates to the back, nausea, vomiting, or even a fever, your physician may suspect the presence of gallbladder disease. Your doctor may also ask you if your urine looks very dark, like cola or tea, and if your stools appear pale or clay-colored. These color changes can also point to gallbladder disease and may mean that a gallstone is obstructing one of your bile ducts.

Your doctor will also assess your skin and the whites of your eyes. If they are yellow-tinged, it may mean that you have jaundice, a sign of gallbladder or liver disease. After the medical history, your doctor will perform a physical examination. They will palpate your abdomen to assess your gallbladder, liver, and pancreas. If any of these organs feel inflamed, further testing may be warranted to rule out gallbladder disease. 

Diagnostic Testing

If you have symptoms of gallbladder disease and if your physical examination reveals inflammation of the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas, then your physician may recommend diagnostic testing such as blood and imaging tests.

A chemistry profile blood test may reveal elevated bilirubin levels that can indicate gallbladder or liver disorders. Bilirubin is a yellowish substance that is a component of bile. If your levels are high, in addition to yellow skin and sclerae, your skin may itch because bilirubin is irritating to the epidermis. 

To further confirm the diagnose of gallbladder disease, your healthcare provider may perform an ultrasound to evaluate your gallbladder and bile ducts. The ultrasound is safe and there is nothing you need to do before the test. Ultrasound does not emit radiation because it uses sound waves to generate images of the internal organs. 

If you develop any of the above symptoms of gallbladder disease, schedule a doctor's office visit. When gallbladder disease is recognized in its early stages, an appropriate treatment plan can be implemented before the disease progresses.