Gallbladder Attack: Symptoms & Signs
- Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019
The symptoms of gallbladder 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. Movement does not make the pain worsen.
Related Symptoms & Signs
Signs & Symptoms Of Gallbladder Infection
Recognizing symptoms that may indicate a gallbladder infection is important, as this condition requires urgent medical treatment.
- Fever. Fever generally dont occur with a typical gallbladder attack. Fevers are more common with infections. A sudden temperature spike in someone with gallbladder-related symptoms could indicate the development of gallbladder gangrene or rupture or the development of a bloodstream infection.
- Gallbladder pain. Gallbladder infection almost always causes severe pain, which usually begins in the right or middle upper abdomen. Over time, the pain increases in intensity and becomes more generalized, a characteristic that helps distinguish a gallbladder infection from a gallbladder attack. Gallbladder pain that lasts more than 6 hours points to the possibility of a gallbladder infection.
- Gastrointestinal disturbances. Abdominal distension due to decreased intestinal activity in response to a gallbladder infection or inflammation may also occur.
- Heart palpitations, rapid Breathing, and/or confusion. A racing heartbeat, rapid breathing and confusion are typical symptoms of shock, which may develop if a gallbladder infection spreads to the bloodstream.
What Causes Gallbladder Pain
Causes of gallbladder pain include:
- Gallstones occur when cholesterol and other substances found in bile form stones. When stones pass from the gallbladder into the small intestine or get stuck in the biliary duct it can cause pain. This is called biliary colic, or a gallbladder attack.
- The pain of a gallbladder attack may resemble a heart attack. See your doctor right away if you have chest pain.
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Is Coffee Bad For Gallbladder
Coffee consumption and gallstones There is some evidence that coffee triggers the contraction of the gallbladder. It appears likely that caffeine is largely responsible for the effect of coffee, since consumption of decaffeinated coffee is not linked to a reduced risk of developing gallbladder disease in all studies.
How Do You Know If Your Gallbladder Is Hurting
Common Symptom: Pain A gallbladder attack usually causes a sudden gnawing pain that gets worse. You may feel it in the upper right or center of your belly, in your back between your shoulder blades, or in your right shoulder. You might also vomit or have nausea. Pain usually lasts 20 minutes to an hour.
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What Shoulder Hurts With Gallbladder
Symptoms may include: Steady, severe pain in the upper abdomen that increases rapidly and may last from 30 minutes to several hours. Pain in the back between the shoulder blades. Pain in the right shoulder.
Where does shoulder hurt with gallbladder problems?
When there is a gall bladder disease such as inflammation of the gall bladder with resulting swelling, the phrenic nerve gets irritated. In addition to the local pain in the abdomen, especially following fatty meals, a dull pain is felt in the right shoulder.
What Is The Gallbladder
Shaped like a tiny pear, your gallbladder resides on your right side, just below your liver. It stores bile, which is a vital fluid your liver manufactures that plays an essential role in digestion. Every time you eat, your gallbladder releases bile that travels through ducts into your small intestine.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Gallstones
- Obesity. Being overweight is a major risk factor.
- Estrogen. Excess estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills appears to increase cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement.
- Gender. Women are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men.
- Age. People over 60 are more likely to develop gallstones than younger people.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs. Drugs that lower cholesterol in blood can actually increase the amount of cholesterol secreted in bile.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes generally have high levels of fatty acids, called triglycerides, which increase the risk for gallstones.
- Rapid weight loss. As the body metabolizes fat during rapid weight loss, it causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into bile, which can cause gallstones.
- Fasting. Fasting decreases gallbladder movement, which causes the bile to become over-concentrated with cholesterol.
Gallbladder Removal Surgery Recovery Tips
Its normal for you to feel sick, bloated, or tired immediately after your surgery. Caring for your wounds and taking care of your health will speed along your recovery.
- Dress your stitches properly, cleaning the area, replacing dressings regularly, and applying any medication your doctor prescribes.
- Get plenty of sleep!
- Eat small, light meals immediately after the surgery, and build up to normal intake over the next few days.
- Exercise but choose gentle activities such as walking.
- Do not drink alcohol for at least 24 hours after surgery.
If you experience fever, jaundice, pain, persistent nausea, or a return of your original symptoms, contact your doctor immediately as these could be signs of complications.
Can Gallstones Lead To Gallbladder Cancer
The gallbladder produces a substance called bile which helps our small intestine break down fats in the foods we eat. Sometimes, gallstones develop in the gallbladder and prevent the normal flow of bile. Gallstones can cause blockages in the gallbladder, causing pain, discomfort, and complications such as cholecystitis. But can gallstones lead to gallbladder cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, gallbladder cancer is estimated to affect approximately 11,000 people in the United States this year. Gallbladder cancer is a rare condition which can either start in the gallbladder or start in another area of the body and spread to the organ.
It is uncommon for people who develop gallbladder cancer to have gallstones. Gallbladder cancer occurs when malignant cells develop in the tissue or membrane of the gallbladder, while gallstones affect the normal flow of bile into and out of the gallbladder.
Gallbladder cancer can be hard to detect, as there are generally no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms can also mimic other diseases, leading to a delayed diagnosis. The gallbladder is located behind the liver, which can further make detection difficult.
When gallbladder cancer is detected, it is often in a later stage of progression. The early stages are limited to the gallbladder itself, and are easier to treat. Later stages can spread to surrounding muscles, organs, and tissue, and are more difficult to treat.
What Is Gallstone Pain Like
Asked by: Mekhi Wisoky
Gallstones can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain that usually lasts 1 to 5 hours, although it can sometimes last just a few minutes. The pain can be felt: in the centre of your abdomen just under the ribs on your right-hand side it may spread from here to your side or shoulder blade.
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Can Digestive Issues Cause Left Shoulder Pain
Despite its location behind the stomach and near the small intestine, your pancreas can cause pain in other parts of the body when it becomes inflamed. In fact, those suffering from acute pancreatitis may experience sudden pain in their upper abdomen that often radiates to the back commonly the left shoulder blade.
What does pain in left shoulder blade mean?
Shoulder blade pain doesnt always have an obvious cause. It can be a symptom of something serious like a heart attack or lung cancer. Or maybe you slept on it wrong or have poor posture at the computer. Many other causes exist, including degenerative disc disease, arthritis, gallbladder disease, and shingles.
Gallbladder Pain And Shoulder Pain
According to the NIH, when gallstones develop they can lead to inflammation of the gallbladder, liver and pancreas. When these organs develop inflammation they can produce pressure on a variety of nerves. One nerve, the right phrenic nerve travels upward towards the shoulder and upper back, and when pressure is applied to this nerve, it produces pain in the right shoulder. This is why many medical resources note that right shoulder pain one of the primary symptoms of a gallbladder attack.
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Do The Pain And Symptoms Occur In All Patients With Gallstones
No. There are over 20 million Americans with gallstones but only about 750,000 gallbladders removed per year. In addition, about 1 million new cases will be diagnosed each year. Therefore, most patients with gallstones have no symptoms or symptoms so mild they do not affect their lifestyle. It is estimated that only 20% of people with gallstones and no symptoms will develop symptoms during the next twenty years of their life. However, people who do have symptoms are likely to continue to have symptoms. Furthermore, in a large percentage of symptomatic patients, the frequency and severity of the attacks increase over time.
First Signs Of A Bad Gallbladder: Gastroenterologist Explains
Our content is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice by your doctor. Use for informational purposes only.
The first signs of a bad gallbladder are nausea after eating, pain in the right upper quadrant or the middle of your abdomen, pain in the back of the right shoulder, and vomiting.
Keep reading to learn more about the first signs of a bad gallbladder.
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The Mysterious Pain In The Right Shoulder
I see it all the time: a patient comes to me suffering mysterious pain, usually in their right shoulder or rotator cuff. Its a chronic pain that runs under their shoulder blade, up to the side of the neck or surrounding muscles, sometimes resulting in headaches, and they cant pinpoint the cause.
Rotator Cuff Definition: A cluster of tendons and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, keeping the head of the upper arm bone firm.
They’ve never been injured in that areathey take good care of themselves, and often, they even report they’ve recently made some new, healthy lifestyle choices. What could possibly be wrong? Ninety percent of these people are suffering from gallbladder problems.
What Are Some Causes Of Gallbladder Pain In The Left Side
Gallbladder pain that radiates to the left side is a sign of gallbladder inflammation, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Tumors, alcohol abuse, infections and gallstones can cause inflammation, states Everyday Health. In addition to pain, symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting and light-colored stools, claims Healthline.
In addition to pain on the left side, gallbladder inflammation features pain on the right, and can move to the shoulder blades and behind the breast bone, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This arises in around one to three percent of people with gallstones, and around a third of patients experience a fever. Individuals experiencing such symptoms should seek medical attention, as gallbladder perforation is a risk.
Factors that increase the risk of this condition include bile build up and gallstone irritation, notes Everyday Health. When gallstones irritate the gallbladder, intestinal bacteria invades the area and causes an infection. Other risk factors include excess cholesterol in the gallbladder during pregnancy or following weight loss, pancreatic or live tumors and decreased blood supply to the gallbladder due to diabetes, states Healthline. Additionally, being female, obese, over the age of 40, Native American or Hispanic increases a persons risk factor.
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What Are The Symptoms
A gallbladder attack causes a sudden gnawing pain that gets worse. You may feel it in the upper right or center of your belly, your lower back, or between your shoulder blades. You might also vomit or feel nauseous. Other tell-tale signs include:
- A sharp pain in the abdomen
- Difficulty relieving yourself on the toilet
Lifestyle Changes After Gallbladder Removal
After recovering from surgery, you can return to your normal activities without needing to alter or reduce the intensity of your work, workouts, or hobbies.
The main lifestyle changes youll expect following gallbladder removal surgery center around your diet. Your gallbladder was in charge delivering bile to your small intestine during mealtimes and storing bile when not needed, such as overnight.
Without a gallbladder, bile is constantly delivered to your small intestine. This means that you may experience some changes in your digestion. For most people, these side effects go away over time.
You may experience:
Your body will also digest food differently now that the flow of bile has changed. Fatty foods, full fat milk and dairy, and spicy foods may cause indigestion in some people. A balanced diet which is high and fiber and low in fat is a good place to start as you determine the right diet for you.
Dietary recommendations to help manage your digestion:
- Avoid fatty or fried foods
- Reduce or cut out spicy foods
- Choose high fiber foods and whole grains
- Choose plenty of vegetables
- Opt for low fat or non-fat dairy
- Reduce your caffeine intake if it causes indigestion
- Avoid eating a large meal after fasting
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day
If you experience persistent symptoms, develop jaundice, become weak, or notice significant weight loss after surgery, you will want to speak to your doctor.
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Symptoms Of A Gallbladder Problem
The gallbladder is a small sac that stores bile from the liver, and it’s found just beneath your liver.
It releases bile through ducts into the small intestine to help break down the foods you eat particularly fatty foods.
Typically the gallbladder doesn’t cause too many problems or much concern, but if something slows or blocks the flow of bile from the gallbladder, a number of problems can result.
How Are Gallstones Diagnosed
In some cases, asymptomatic gallstones are discovered byaccident–during testing for another diagnosis. However, when painpersists or happens again and again, your health care provider may wantto conduct a complete medical history and physical examination, inaddition to the following diagnostic procedures for gallstones:
Ultrasound. A diagnostic technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.
Cholecystography. X-ray that shows the flow of contrast fluid through the intestines into the gallbladder.
Blood tests. These look for signs of infection, obstruction, jaundice, and/or pancreatitis.
Computed tomography scan . A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography . A procedure that involves inserting an endoscope through the stomach and into the small intestine. A special dye injected during this procedure shows the ducts in the biliary system.
Sphincterotomy. Opening the muscle sphincter, a ring of muscle around a natural opening that acts like a valve, wide enough so stones can pass into the intestine.
What Is A Gallstone Attack
A gallstone attack often occurs suddenly and is the result of a blockage in the flow of bile. When a gallstone blocks one of the bile ducts, bile is unable to flow normally, which results in pressure and pain. Gallstone pain frequently occurs after eating a heavy meal, or one with high-fat content. Gallstone attacks also occur at night.
The symptoms of gallstones are primarily pain, and include:
Upper Abdomen Pain the most common gallstone symptom is increasing pain on the upper right side of the abdomen, directly below the ribcage. It can be mild at first, but usually increases and lasts from several minutes up to several hours. Severe pain is usually called biliary colic
Back Pain the pain from gallstones can radiate from the abdomen to the back, usually on the right side under the shoulder.
These are primarily due to poor digestion of fats, but may also be due to more severe blockage. If severe pain continues without relief, fever persists, and vomiting continues, it is important to go to the hospital immediately.
What Is The Function Of The Gallbladder
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ found under the liver that stores bile, a fluid that helps the body break down the fat in foods you eat.
What Are Gallstones?
Gallstones are small stones that form inside the gallbladder that can range in size from tiny specks to up to 6 inches long, as large as the entire gallbladder. Most are smaller than 1-inch.
There are two types of gallstones:
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