Gallbladder Attack: Just like pretty much every other body part, things can go wrong with your gallbladder. Enter: Gallstones, which can block your ducts and cause an attack, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
The gallbladder is a small sack in the upper right abdomen, below your liver. It looks like a sideways pear. Its main job is to store about 50 percent of bile (gall) that is made by the liver. Your body needs bile to help break up fats. This liquid also helps you absorb some vitamins from foods. When you eat fatty foods, bile is released from the gallbladder and liver into the intestines.
Food is mostly digested in the intestines. The symptoms of diseases attack result most commonly due to the presence of gallstones. Less common causes include tumors of the bile duct or gallbladder or certain illnesses. With blockage to the flow of bile, the bile accumulates in the gallbladder, causing an increase in pressure that can sometimes lead to rupture.
Symptoms of a gallbladder attack include pain in the upper right side or middle of the abdomen. The pain may be dull, sharp, or cramping. The pain typically starts suddenly. It is steady and may spread to the back or the area below the right shoulder blade. Having steady pain particularly after meals is a common symptom of gallbladder stones. The movement does not make the pain worsen.
Gallbladder Attack Symptoms
The most common symptom of a gallbladder problem is pain. This pain usually occurs in the mid-to upper-right section of your abdomen.
Nausea or vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of all types of gallbladder problems. However, only chronic gallbladder disease may cause digestive problems, such as acid reflux and gas.
Fever or chills
Chills or an unexplained fever may signal that you have an infection. If you have an infection, you need treatment before it worsens and becomes dangerous. The infection can become life-threatening if it spreads to other parts of the body.
Having more than four bowel movements per day for at least three months may be a sign of chronic gallbladder disease.
Yellow-tinted skin, or jaundice, may be a sign of a block or stone in the common bile duct. The common bile duct is the channel that leads from the gallbladder to the small intestine.
When To See A Doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Seek immediate care if you develop signs and symptoms of a serious gallstone complication, such as:
- Abdominal pain so intense that you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- High fever with chills
Gallbladder Attack Relief
If you have no gallbladder pain (even if you have gallstones but never had pain), you need no treatment. Some patients who have had one or two gallstone attacks may elect to avoid treatment. Pain during an acute gallstone attack is often treated with morphine. Medical treatments include
- oral bile salt therapy (<50% effective),
- ursodiol (Actigall, for example)
- dissolution, and
- lithotripsy (shock waves).
The definitive treatment is gallbladder removal surgery (and/or the obstructing gallstones). Currently, the surgical method of choice is laparoscopic surgery, where the gallbladder is removed by instruments using only small incisions in the abdomen. However, some patients may require more extensive surgery. Usually, people do well once the gallbladder is removed unless there is an underlying cause that mimics gallbladder pain (for example, biliary dyskinesia, a motility disorder of sphincter of Oddi).
How To Stop A Gallbladder Attack While It Is Happening
Regular physical activity can reduce cholesterol levels and help prevent gallstones from forming. Though small, gallstones can cause serious inflammation, pain, and infection. They can also grow to larger sizes.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week to prevent weight gain and improve your health.
Consult with your doctor before performing any strenuous activity. While exercise is helpful, some activities cause strain on your abdomen and may worsen your symptoms.
Poor eating habits and consuming foods high in sugars and fats can contribute to disease and gallstones. A diet with less fat and more fiber can prevent gallstones and improve your health.
Fried foods and other foods or condiments that contain fats — even salad dressings — are more difficult to break down and can cause pain. Increasing nutrient-rich foods in your diet, such as vegetables and fruits, can improve gallbladder function and prevent complications.
Peppermint contains menthol, a soothing compound that promotes pain relief. It can be used to ease stomach pain, improve digestion, and relieve nausea.
What Does A Gallbladder Attack Feel Like?
With blockage to the flow of bile, the bile accumulates in the gallbladder, causing an increase in pressure that can sometimes lead to rupture. Symptoms of an attack include pain in the upper right side or middle of the abdomen. The pain may be dull, sharp, or cramping. The pain typically starts suddenly.
What Is The Fastest Way To Relieve Gallbladder Pain?
- Exercise. Regular physical activity can reduce cholesterol levels and help prevent gallstones from forming.
- Dietary changes.
- Heated compress.
- Peppermint tea.
- Apple cider vinegar.
How Long Do Gallbladder Attacks Last?
Acute cholecystitis involves pain that begins suddenly and usually lasts for more than six hours. It’s caused by gallstones in 95 percent of cases, according to the Merck Manual. An acute attack usually goes away within two to three days and is completely resolved within a week.
What Triggers Gallbladder Attack?
Gallstones occur when cholesterol and other substances found in bile form stones. When the stone passes from the gallbladder into the small intestine or becomes stuck in the biliary duct it can cause pain.