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What are the symptoms of a bile duct obstruction?

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Quick Answer

The symptoms of a bile duct obstruction can include nausea, vomiting, pale stools, pain in the upper-right region of the abdomen and dark urine, MedlinePlus says. Other possible symptoms include a yellowing of the skin, known as jaundice, and itching.

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Full Answer

A blockage in the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine is a bile duct obstruction, explains MedlinePlus. Bile contains bile salts, waste products and cholesterol as a liquid. The bile salts in the bile help the body break down ingested fats. A bile duct obstruction can be caused by gallstones, cysts, tumors, injury from gallbladder surgery or enlarged lymph nodes. Other possible causes include growth of scar tissue, inflammation of the bile ducts, and parasitic worms that infest the liver and bile ducts.

When the bile ducts are obstructed, bile accumulates in the liver and chemicals such as bilirubin begin to build up in the blood, MedlinePlus states. Treatment for this condition focuses on relieving the blockage. If the blockage is caused by a gallstone, removal is often accomplished through an endoscope. Otherwise, surgery may be required to widen the bile ducts. Even in the case of gallstones, gallbladder removal surgery is often performed to prevent recurrence.

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