Learn What a Gallbladder Attack Feels Like

It’s easy to mistake a gallbladder attack for other types of tummy trouble. Knowing the symptoms and when to seek professiona

The gallbladder is a small organ that sits below the liver and stores an important digestive fluid called bile. Gallstones are the most common cause of gallbladder issues, and about 20 million Americans have the little stones. Many people with gallstones have no symptoms. When symptoms do arise, it’s best to seek professional evaluation for diagnosis and treatment. 

Gallbladder function

The gallbladder plays a key role in helping your body digest fats. It’s also needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. When you eat fat-containing foods, the gallbladder contracts and releases bile into the common bile duct that connects to the intestines. A number of gallbladder disorders can cause attacks of pain and discomfort. The gallbladder can become inflamed, develop growths, or form calcified stones called gallstones. 

Gallstones explained

When the gallbladder develops gallstones, they can cause symptoms known collectively as a gallbladder attack. Gallstones are pebble-like stones made primarily of hardened cholesterol and bile. The stones can be a small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. While golfball-size gallstones are extremely rare, large gallstones can block the flow of bile. Small stones can clump together and cause problems as well.

Cholecystitis refers to inflammation of the gallbladder and is another common cause of gallbladder attacks. While gallstones can cause inflammation, it’s possible to have inflammation without gallstones. 

Gallbladder attack symptoms

Gallbladder attacks can range from mild to severe and typically cause pain in the upper right area of the abdomen. Symptoms include:

Attacks are more likely to occur immediately after a fatty meal. The pain can radiate to the middle of the abdomen and between the shoulder blades. Seek immediate help if you experience symptoms such as fever and chills as these may point to more severe complications. 

Recurrent gallbladder attacks

Whether you have one gallbladder attack or they recur, it’s necessary to see a specialist. A gallbladder attack is a warning sign that something is amiss with the gallbladder. Repeated attacks can cause the gallbladder to lose its ability to function properly. 

Gallbladder attack complications

Don’t take gallbladder attacks lightly. Even mild attacks can signal a serious underlying problem. Gallstones and gallbladder disease can cause serious complications. Gallstones can block the ducts that transport bile. This prevents bile from traveling from the liver to the intestines, and can cause serious health issues, including:

Who’s at risk?

Gallstones develop when substances that make up bile, such as cholesterol and calcium, harden. Anyone can develop gallstones. Some people are more at risk than others due to various factors including:

Women are more at risk of developing gallstones than men, and gallstones are more common as you age. Patients over 60 are a higher risk for gallstones.

Treatment for gallbladder issues

Here at Gastroenterology Consultants of West Houston, our expert gastroenterologist Dr. Hyon Kang diagnoses and treats a wide variety of gastrointestinal diseases, including those that affect the gallbladder. Prompt evaluation and treatment is necessary to avoid complications when gallbladder attacks occur. 

Sometimes lifestyle changes such as losing weight and adopting a lower-fat diet are enough to remedy mild gallbladder problems. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is often a necessary treatment. For this minimally-invasive surgery, Dr. Kang makes small incisions and uses special tools to remove the gallbladder. 

Take symptoms of gallbladder disease seriously. Prompt evaluation is the best way to avoid potentially serious complications. If you notice any pain or discomfort in your abdomen, especially after eating, schedule a visit with Dr. Kang at our office in Katy, Texas. Call 281-729-5758 to speak with one of our team members today. 

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