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What Does a Gallbladder Attack Feel Like?

What Does a Gallbladder Attack Feel Like?

Do you have unexplained pain in your rib cage, abdomen, or back? It’s time to see a medical professional. This type of pain could mean a serious illness. One possibility is gallbladder disease, and you could be having a gallbladder attack. 

At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, our board-certified bariatric and general surgeons, Dexter Turnquest, MD, and Victoria C. Chang, MD, treat many patients with gallbladder disease. If you have a gallbladder attack, surgery may be your best option. 

What is gallbladder disease?

Your gallbladder is a pouch near your liver that stores bile, a fluid that your liver produces. Bile dissolves the fats that you consume. As you eat, your gallbladder moves bile through ducts that lead to your small intestine, a process central to food digestion.  

If you develop gallstones in your gallbladder or bile ducts, the bile backs up, inflaming the gallbladder and causing your discomfort. Gallstones develop from abnormal changes in your bile. Researchers still don’t fully understand why the changes occur. 

Why you should seek medical help for gallbladder problems

If you’ve had chronic gallbladder disease, you’re likely troubled by passing gas frequently. You may have abdominal pain after you eat, and you may get diarrhea. 

All of these symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that part of your digestive system isn’t working properly and needs attention. 

Untreated gallbladder disease can lead to gangrene, which means some of the tissue in your gallbladder is dying. Because part of the tissue is compromised, your gallbladder could burst. Infection can then spread through your body and cause sepsis, a life-threatening condition. 

Gallbladder disease also causes cirrhosis of the liver and pancreatitis. Don’t wait until the condition is acute. Treating gallbladder disease early means a faster recovery. 

What are the symptoms of a gallbladder attack? 

Here are some of the common signs that you may be having a gallbladder attack, which is an acute condition. 

Pain

You may feel pain in one of three areas: 

If you’re having an attack, the pain is severe and constant. You may feel pain when you breathe.  

Nausea/vomiting

It’s not uncommon to experience nausea and/or vomiting when having a gallbladder attack. If you have chronic gallbladder disease, meaning you have gallstones and mild inflammation, you may feel nauseous and have pain in your abdomen after you eat. 

Jaundice

When you look in the mirror, have the whites of your eyes turned yellow? Does your skin have a yellowish cast? You’ve likely developed jaundice. A gallstone may be stuck in a bile duct. 

If you have jaundice, bile from your gallbladder has entered your bloodstream. Bile contains toxins that your liver filters. When it enters your bloodstream, you become ill and need medical help right away. 

Dark urine and/or light bowel movements

Has your urine turned the color of tea? Maybe your stools aren’t the normal dark brown but instead are very light. Both symptoms can point to a gallbladder attack. 

Fast heart rate or drop in blood pressure

Does your heart feel like it’s beating too rapidly? If it’s more than 100 beats per minute when you’re resting, it’s at an abnormal level. You also may experience a drop in your blood pressure during a gallbladder attack. 

Chills and fever 

Chills and fever signal infection. When occurring with one or more of the other symptoms above, seek medical help immediately. 

Treatment for gallbladder disease 

Our bariatric surgeons treat many patients with gallbladder disease. Gallbladder surgery is a routine operation that typically lasts less than one hour. You have laparoscopic surgery, meaning your doctor makes very tiny incisions, causing minimal trauma to your body’s tissue, two factors that promote rapid healing. 

You may be able to return home after the surgery and resume a normal work schedule in about a week. 


If you want to learn more or make an appointment, call us at one of our two Houston, Texas locations or request an appointment through our online portal today.

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