Did you know that 6.3 million men and 14.2 million women have gallbladder disease? This condition can cause these individuals to have a myriad of symptoms, including intense abdominal pain.

The gallbladder may be one of the lesser-known organs, but it does a lot of important work for you and your body. In fact, it’s so important that those without it need to completely adjust their diets.

Individuals with gallbladder issues may experience something commonly known as a gallbladder attack. To learn more about the signs of a gallbladder attack and what you can do, keep reading.

What Does the Gallbladder Do?

The gallbladder is a small organ that lies in the upper right portion of your abdomen. It lies below your liver and looks somewhat like a sideways pear shape.

Its job is to store the bile that the liver makes. This is important because your body needs the bile to break up fats in the food that you eat. Bile can also help with vitamin absorption.

When you eat fatty foods, the gallbladder and liver release bile into the intestines to help them break down the fat.

What Is a Gallbladder Attack?

A gallbladder attack happens when bile can’t travel into or out of your gallbladder. In turn, your body presents several symptoms such as intense pain.

As the bile builds up in your gallbladder, it can become inflamed and irritated.

Gallbladder attacks can last for several hours depending on how severe the obstruction is. The pain will subside if the gallstone passes. However, there is no way to stop an attack.

What Causes a Gallbladder Attack?

Multiple things can cause a gallbladder attack. Anything that causes an obstruction to or from the gallbladder can cause this problem.

One of the most common causes of a gallbladder attack is gallstones. If one of these stones gets stuck in the duct that connects the gallbladder to the stomach, it can cause bile to backflow into the gallbladder. This causes the gallbladder to spasm, making a sharp pain in the upper right abdomen.

Gallbladder attacks usually happen after eating a big meal, especially meals that are high in fat content. Thus, people are more likely to have gallbladder attacks in the evening.

One gallbladder attack makes you more likely to have another one in the future.

Symptoms of a Gallbladder Attack?

There are several symptoms that patients with gallbladder attacks may experience. The abdominal pain that you may feel from a gallbladder attack can come about in several different ways:

  • Sudden, sharp pains in your abdomen that last a few minutes or a few hours
  • Dull, cramping pain in the upper right part of your abdomen
  • Pain that doesn’t change with position or movement
  • Generalized abdominal tenderness

Other than abdominal pain, you may have referred pain to your right shoulder or in between your shoulder blades. This kind of pain may make it more difficult to diagnose the problem.

With the abdominal pain, you may have a few other symptoms, such as the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Yellowing of the skin and/or eyes
  • Dark urine that is similar to the color of tea
  • Bowel movements that are similar to clay in color

If the gallbladder attack goes on for too long, it could cause other complications in the liver or pancreas. This could cause pain that radiates into the left upper abdomen.

Gallbladder Attack Treatment

If a provider discovers that you’re having a gallbladder attack, there are many ways that they may try to treat the problem.

First, they may try to administer pain medications along with anti-nausea medications. These can help get rid of the symptoms that you’re dealing with.

Sometimes, the gallbladder attack can go away on its own without the medications. However, some people do need these medications to ease the pain while they wait for the problem to subside.

If you have small gallstones, your provider may prescribe ursodiol. This is a medication that helps your body dissolve cholesterol gallstones. In turn, your pain should go away.

However, this medication may take a few months or years to work. And, your gallstones may return after you stop taking the medication.

If the pain doesn’t ease up or you have multiple gallbladder attacks, you may need to have surgery. 

The most common surgery is a cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal. By removing the entire gallbladder, you won’t ever have gallstones or a gallbladder attack again. 

Another procedure is the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This allows the provider to remove the gallstones that are blocking the duct.

Lastly, your provider may opt for a percutaneous cholecystectomy tube. This helps drain the gallstones and extra bile from your gallbladder.

How to Prevent a Gallbladder Attack

If you’ve had a gallbladder attack and want to prevent another one, there are a few things that you can do to lessen the likelihood of having one.

First, you could try to lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Having excess weight on your body increases your risk for developing cholesterol gallstones because the fat makes your bile hold more cholesterol.

We also recommend that you add regular exercise to your day. If you spend a lot of time sitting down, you may be inhibiting your gallbladder’s ability to drain the bile to your intestines.

Overall, you should work to achieve a balanced lifestyle. By taking care of yourself and making slow lifestyle changes, you can get control of your gallbladder attacks.

If you make changes too quickly (such as losing weight fast), you could increase your risk for complications.

Schedule a Consultation

If you’ve been having gallbladder attacks, it may be time to get a cholecystectomy. Removing your gallbladder may seem extreme, but it is a very common procedure.

And, for people who have had a gallbladder attack, it provides relief and comfort.

If you’re interested, go ahead and schedule a consultation with our experts at Surgco. We can help you decide whether gallbladder removal surgery is the right choice for you and your case.