Gallbladder attacks can be quite frightening because it can feel like you’re having a heart attack. When the gallbladder is healthy, this small organ aids the digestive process by storing bile and excreting it into the small intestine for food digestion. When the gallbladder is unhealthy, gallstones can form and block bile ducts, bile can back up in the gallbladder and cause painful inflammation, or the gallbladder can become infected with a condition known as Cholecystitis.
Gallbladder attacks often begin suddenly and can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours, sometimes even requiring hospitalization. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gallbladder problems is important so that you know when to seek treatment.
The following are common symptoms:
- Abdominal Pain – One of the most obvious symptoms of gallstones is pain that begins in the upper right portion of the stomach, under the ribs. This pain will radiate outwards, moving gradually to the center of the belly or upper back.
- Indigestion – Complaints of gas, nausea, and abdominal discomfort after meals are common symptoms. One may experience symptoms of colic, which cause a steady gripping pain (i.e., like heartburn) in the upper right abdomen near the rib cage. Also, like heartburn, colic can radiate to the upper back and behind the breast bone causing pain and pressure.
- Vomiting – Gallstone pain can cause vomiting, particularly following large or fatty meals.
- Lack of Appetite – If nausea occurs mainly following meals, the patient may avoid eating altogether due to fear of pain.
- Jaundice – If a gallstone becomes lodged in or blocks a bile duct, bile remains in your body and bloodstream, turning your skin and the whites of the eyes a yellowish hue known as Jaundice.
- Urine Changes – Dark or discolored urine can indicate gallbladder issues as well as dehydration.
- Diarrhea – Explosive and frequent bowl movements can occur with gallstone attacks, accompanied by pain that tends to come and go.
- Stool Changes – When gallstones grow and block bile ducts, the color of the stool can become pale or clay-like.
- Fever – If a patient with gallstones or prone to gallbladder attacks experiences fever and chills, this typically indicates an infection of the bile ducts. Fever will occur with acute cholecystitis, usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Patients with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. Acute cholecystitis is a life-threatening condition if left unattended.
- Chest Pain – Gallbladder attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks. If a blockage or infection afflicts the gallbladder or bile duct, acid is trapped in the stomach and gets pushed up into the chest, resulting in heart attack-like pain.
If you have gallbladder pain or have been told you need to have yours removed, contact VIP Surg. The doctors will determine what treatment is right for you. Call for a consultation.