A gallbladder attack is a relatively common problem that occurs when your gallbladder becomes irritated due to a variety of causes which will be described in this article. Pain from a gallbladder attack can range from mild to severe. Episodes may last a few minutes or a few hours, with the pain being felt mostly in the upper abdomen (although it may also radiate to the shoulder area and back).
Cholecystitis is the medical name for a gallbladder attack. It may also be called biliary colic or biliary disease.
To get an idea of why a gallbladder attack occurs, you need to understand how the gallbladder functions and the role it plays in digestion.
Your gallbladder is a hollow organ located near your liver, and it is approximately the shape of your thumb. It is basically a storage area for a substance called bile, which is produced by the liver. Bile plays an important role in breaking down the food you eat, making it easier for the intestines to digest. Bile is essential for metabolizing cholesterol and fats. When you eat a meal that contains a lot of fat and cholesterol, the gallbladder can’t process it all properly. It becomes irritated or inflamed, which causes the pain of a gallbladder attack. If a lot of fats and cholesterol have accumulated, it can be hours before gallbladder function returns to normal and pain subsides. People who eat a lot of fried foods often have gallbladder problems.
It’s possible for so much cholesterol to accumulate in the gallbladder that some of it hardens into formations that resemble small stones. These are commonly known as gallstones, and they can also cause a great deal of discomfort. Gallstones can be tiny and practically invisible to the naked eye. But they can also grow to the size or a golf ball.
As mentioned earlier, the pain from a gallbladder attack may present itself in several different parts of the body. Pain often occurs in the abdominal region, but some people also feel it in the right shoulder or the area between the shoulder blades.
You can also experience pain that feels like a gallbladder attack for several other reasons. For instance, there can be a blockage or obstruction biliary tract, which is the the path that transports bile to the small intestine. Gallbladder infections are also possible.
Pain is the most common of gallbladder attack symptoms. These other symptoms are also appear:
* a fever is likely, along with chills
* there could be bowel irregularities, including diarrhea or constipation
* there may be some dizziness
* there may be a headache centered above the right eye
* stools will look lighter or slate-colored
* vomiting and nausea are common
* stomach bloating is common, as is an unusual amount of flatulence
Gallbladder attack treatment depends on the cause and the severity of the pain. A person who has a sudden, intensely painful gallbladder attack may need to be hospitalized. Those who have chronic, recurring attacks may require hospitalization also.
Your doctor may recommend intravenous fluids and electrolytes. Plus, you won’t be allowed to eat or drink anything for a period of time.
A tube inserted through the nose and down into the stomach may keep the stomach empty and limit fluid accumulation in the intestines. Antibiotics may also be administered.
If attacks happen frequently or become chronic, your doctor may recommend gallbladder removal surgery. You can actually live without your gallbladder because your liver secretes all the bile you need.
Gallbladder attacks will happen to some people no matter what they eat or how careful they are about their diet. This can be true for individuals with a family history of gallbladder problems. For the most part though, it’s possible to reduce your chances of having gallbladder attacks if your diet includes more low-fat, low-cholesterol foods. You can also maintain a regular exercise regimen. Vigorous exercise goes a long way toward clearing cholesterol and fats out of your system.