Your gallbladder is a small, yet vital organ that plays an important role in the digestion of your food. And while for most people the gallbladder simply performs its main function, there are times when it can become unhealthy and cause many health issues.
On a typical day when your gallbladder is functioning properly, bile is stored and secreted at the necessary intervals to help break down food that you have consumed. This way the food particles can continue on their digestive journey through your intestines so your body can hold onto the required nutrients and excrete the waste product that is not needed.
Unfortunately, sometimes the bile being stored in your gallbladder does not flow through the gallbladder properly and becomes too concentrated. This highly concentrated bile then begins to harden forming small (and painful!) pieces of material termed gallstones.
As a result, these gallstones that are now blocking the bile ducts that bile is normally secreted out of are causing bile to back up in the tiny organ that is your gallbladder. If this happens, and it commonly does because of gallstones, you may experience what is called gallbladder attack pain. Extreme inflammation, pain, and even infection may result from this gallbladder attack and often requires hospitalization and even gallbladder surgery to remedy it.
A gallbladder attack can come on suddenly and without notice.
In fact, many people do not even know that they have gallstones until they experience symptoms of a gallbladder attack. That’s why it is important that you recognize the common warning signs that you are under a gallbladder attack so that you can seek the appropriate treatment from your Baltimore area gallbladder surgeon.
Today we will look at the common symptoms accompanying a gallbladder attack so that you can treat the situation and regain your health in the quickest way possible.
Common Symptoms of a Gallbladder Attack
1. Stomach Pain
Your gallbladder is located in the upper right portion of your torso near your stomach and under your ribs. If your gallbladder is under attack, and it is serious enough to cause pain, this will be one of the first areas you will feel it.
The pain will typically radiate outward moving towards your upper back and stomach area. Gallbladder attacks that accompany this type of pain usually last around 15 minutes or so. Then the pain will usually subside and you will feel like your normal self again. However, if the pain does not subside and remains continuous and severe, you should seek treatment from your gallbladder surgeon immediately.
Oftentimes, complaints of indigestion, especially right after a meal, can be a telltale sign that you are experiencing a gallbladder attack. This logically makes sense since your gallbladder’s bile will be triggered during the digestion process. And, if the bile is blocked due to gallstones, but is still being triggered physiologically by your body, you are likely to experience pain.
However, many people without gallbladder disease have indigestion after meals. This can make diagnosing a gallbladder attack difficult, especially if you are unaware you have gallstones.
Being in tune with your body is one of the best ways to distinguish between simple gas and a much more serious issue.
Jaundice is a result of the bile that is backing up in your gallbladder spilling over into your bloodstream. This spillage will then turn your skin and the whites of your eyes a pale yellowish hue.
Bile is produced in your liver and emitted into the small intestine for digestive purposes through the gallbladder. If a gallstone, inflammation, or tumor is blocking the bile ducts that connect to the small intestine, and the bile backs up in the gallbladder, the only other place it can go is back into the liver.
From here, the liver will become saturated with bile, which will then cause bile waste to build up (also known as bilirubin) in the bloodstream. If you notice that your skin is starting to turn yellow it is a good idea to seek a specialized gallbladder surgeon to see if a gallbladder attack is underway.
4. Lack of Appetite
If you continually experience gallbladder pain, you may lose your appetite as a way to avoid the predictable pain that comes with eating.
Any extreme pain you experience, especially when it involves the same activity time and time again, should prompt you to seek medical attention. Unfortunately, many people are not educated when it comes to their gallbladder and may fail to associate eating pains with something so serious.
If you experience severe vomiting after a particularly heavy or fatty meal, you may be having a gallbladder attack. This again makes sense from a physical standpoint since bile is primarily responsible for breaking down the fat particles in food you have consumed during the digestion process. In an effort to release the pressure from backed up bile, gas pressure, and stomach pain, sometimes your body will induce you to vomit.
6. Urine and Stool Changes
Gallstones are made up of cholesterol, bile pigments, and calcium salts. If they are formed in excess in the gallbladder and begin releasing their waste products into your bloodstream, eventually they will be excreted from your body in the form of urine and stool.
If you notice that your urine has taken on a dark yellow, or even brown color, this may signal to you that you are having a gallbladder attack. It is important to note, however, that dark colored urine can also signify dehydration so make sure you assess your overall health before jumping to the conclusion you are having gallbladder issues.
In addition to urine changes, a gallbladder attack can also change your stool. For instance, the excess fat that is not being properly broken down during digestion due to an unhealthy gallbladder may cause you to have frequent diarrhea-like bowel movements. This is typically followed by stomach pains as well. In addition, you may notice that your stool has become light in color and has a chalky consistency. If any of these symptoms apply to you it may be wise to have your doctor check you for gallbladder problems.
7. Fever and Chills
Infections occurring in the bile ducts are relatively uncommon, though can happen if you have large gallstones blocking the duct passages. In fact, it is estimated that only 1-2% of people with gallstones will experience issues directly related to their bile ducts.
If you do have a bile duct that is blocked, however, there is a higher chance you will experience a fever and chills. Many times, this will also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
These signs that you are having a gallbladder attack may also point to a common stomach flu, so it important that you assess your health properly and seek a gallbladder surgeon if need be.
8. Chest Pain
It is not uncommon for gallbladder attacks to be mistaken for a heart attack. The reason is, a blocked bile duct or severe infection may create a significant amount of acid in your stomach that may get pushed up into the chest mimicking the pain associated with a heart attack.
If you experience chest pain after very heavy meals, chances are you are undergoing a gallbladder attack. And since heartburn is a signal that you may have gallbladder problems, it is important you don’t dismiss this symptom.
In the end, there are several common warning signs that you may be experiencing a gallbladder attack. While some of them may be misdiagnosed as simple indigestion or a common illness such as a cold, others are very serious and should not be taken lightly.
If you regularly experience what you feel may be gallbladder attacks, it is important to enlist the help of Baltimore’s most elite gallbladder surgeon. Since gallstones are typically the main culprit behind gallbladder attack pain, patients often undergo gallbladder surgery to relieve the pain. This is done by either removing the gallstones themselves, or in severe cases, the entire gallbladder.
This is why you should contact Dr. Fraiman and his team of gallbladder specialists to help you with your diagnosis and treatment options. With over 20 years in the healthcare profession, Dr. Fraiman has the experience and knowledge to treat every patient individually so that they regain their health quickly.