Information for Patients
Bile Duct Diseases
Your liver makes a digestive juice called bile. Your gallbladder stores it between meals. When you eat, your gallbladder pushes the bile into tubes called bile ducts. They carry the bile to your small intestine. The bile helps break down fat. It also helps the liver get rid of toxins and wastes.
Different diseases can block the bile ducts and cause a problem with the flow of bile:
- Gallstones, which can increase pressure in the gallbladder and cause a gallbladder attack. The pain usually lasts from one to several hours.
- Birth defects, such as biliary atresia. It is the most common reason for liver transplants in children in the United States.
- Inflammation, which can cause scarring. Over time, this can lead to liver failure.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.
Your gallbladder is most likely to give you trouble if something blocks the flow of bile through the bile ducts. That is usually a gallstone. Gallstones form when substances in bile harden. Rarely, you can also get cancer in your gallbladder.
Many gallbladder problems get better with removal of the gallbladder. Fortunately, you can live without a gallbladder. Bile has other ways of reaching your small intestine.
Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons.
There are many kinds of liver diseases:
- Diseases caused by viruses, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
- Diseases caused by drugs, poisons, or too much alcohol. Examples include fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
- Liver cancer
- Inherited diseases, such as hemochromatosis and Wilson disease
Symptoms of liver disease can vary, but they often include swelling of the abdomen and legs, bruising easily, changes in the color of your stool and urine, and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. Sometimes there are no symptoms. Tests such as imaging tests and liver function tests can check for liver damage and help to diagnose liver diseases.