Gallbladder Attack: Symptoms, Treatment, Outlook and More (2023)

A gallbladder attack is also known as a gallstone attack,acute cholecystitis, Öbiliary colic. If you have pain in the upper right side of your abdomen, it could be related to your gallbladder.Remember that there are other causes of pain in this area as well.These include:

  • Asia (BAD)
  • Appendicitis
  • hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • peptic (stomach) ulcer
  • lung infection
  • Hiatushernie
  • kidney infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Leberabszess
  • Pancreatitis(inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Herpes Infection
  • severe constipation

What is the gallbladder?

ÖgallbladderIt's a small sac in the upper right part of the abdomen, below the liver. It looks like a side pear. Its main function is to store approx.50 percentBile (bile) produced by the liver.

Your body needs bile to break down fats. This liquid also helps absorb some vitamins from food. When you eat fatty foods, the gallbladder and liver secrete bile into the intestines. Food is digested primarily in the intestines.

Gallstones are tiny, hard "pebbles" of fat, protein, and minerals in your body. A gallbladder attack usually occurs when gallstones block the bile duct, or gall tube. When this happens, bile builds up in the gallbladder.

The blockage and swelling triggers the pain. The attack usually stops when the gallstones move and bile can flow.

There are two main types of gallstones:

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  • cholesterol gallstones.These are the most common types of gallstones. They look white or yellow because they are made of cholesterol or fat.
  • Pigmentgallensteine.These gallstones form when the bile contains too much bilirubin. They are dark brown or black in color. Bilirubin is the pigment or dye that makes red blood cells red.

You can have gallstones without having a gallbladder attack. In the US approx9 percentof women and6 percentof men have gallstones without symptoms. Gallstones that don't block the bile duct usually don't cause any symptoms.

Other types ofGallbladder problemsthat can cause pain are:

  • Cholangitis (inflammation of the bile duct)
  • gallbladder sludgeBlock
  • gallbladder rupture
  • acalculous disease of the gallbladder or dyskinesia of the gallbladder
  • gallbladder polyps
  • gallbladder cancer

A gallbladder attack usually occurs after eating a large meal. This is because your body produces more bile when you eat fatty foods. You are more likely to have a seizure at night.

If you've had a gallbladder attack, you're more likely to have another one. The pain of a gallbladder attack is generally different from other types of stomach pain. You can have:

  • sudden sharp pain lasting minutes to hours
  • Dull or cramping pain that quickly gets worse in the upper right abdomen
  • lancinating pain in the middle of the abdomen, just below the breastbone
  • severe pain that makes it difficult to sit still
  • Pain that does not worsen or change when you move
  • abdominal tenderness

Pain from a gallbladder attack can spread from the abdomen to:

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  • back between the shoulder blades
  • right shoulder

You may also have other symptoms of a gallbladder attack, such as:

  • nausea
  • to vomit
  • Fever
  • chills
  • yellow skin and eyes
  • dark or tea-colored urine
  • clear or clay-colored stools

A gallbladder attack can lead to other complications that would lead to other symptoms. For example, it can cause liver problems. This happens because a blockage in the duct allows bile to build up in the liver. This can triggerjaundice- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

Sometimes gallstones can block the way to the pancreas. The pancreas also produces digestive juices that help digest food. A blockage can lead to a complication called gallstone pancreatitis. The symptoms are similar to those of a gallbladder attack. You may also feel pain in the upper left abdomen.

fastone thirdof people with gallstones have a gallstone attack or severe symptoms. A gallbladder attack is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. You may need treatment to avoid complications.

Don't ignore the pain and don't try to self-medicate with over-the-counter pain relievers. Get help from a doctor right away if you have any of these signs of a gallbladder attack:

  • Intense pain
  • high fever
  • chills
  • yellowing of the skin
  • yellowing of the whites of the eyes

Treatment of a gallbladder attack

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First, a doctor will give you painkillers to relieve the pain. You may also be given anti-nausea medication to relieve symptoms.If your doctor determines that you can go home without further treatment, you can also try natural methods for pain relief.

Your gallbladder attack may go away on its own. This can happen if the gallstones pass safely and don't cause any complications. You will still need a follow-up visit to your doctor.

You may need scans and tests to confirm the pain is due to a gallbladder attack. These include:

  • Ultrasonic
  • X-ray abdomen
  • Computed Tomography
  • liver function blood test
  • HIDA-Scan

An abdominal ultrasound is the most common and quickest way for a doctor to check for gallstones.


An oral medication called ursodeoxycholic acid, also called ursodiol (Actigall, Urso), helps dissolve cholesterol gallstones. It may be right for you if the pain goes away on its own or if you have no symptoms. It works on a small number of gallstones, as small as 2 to 3 millimeters in size.

This medicine can take months to work and you may need to take it for up to two years. Gallstones can return when you stop taking the medicine.


You may need surgery if the pain doesn't go away or if you have repeated seizures. Surgical treatments for a gallbladder attack include:

Cholecystectomy.In this operation, the entire gallbladder is removed. This prevents you from getting gallstones or having a gallbladder attack again. You will sleep during the procedure. It will take you a few days to weeks to recover from the surgery.

Gallbladder surgeries can be performed laparoscopically or openly.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).With ERCP, you sleep under anesthesia. Your doctor inserts a very thin, flexible endoscope with a camera through your mouth and into the opening of the bile duct.

This procedure can be used to locate and remove gallstones in the duct. They cannot remove stones in the gallbladder. They require very little recovery time since the ERCP is not usually trimmed.

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Percutaneous cholecystostomy tube.This is a surgical procedure to drain the gallbladder. While you're under general anesthesia, a tube is inserted into your gallbladder through a small incision in your stomach. Ultrasound images or X-rays help the surgeon with orientation. The hose is connected to a bag. Gallstones and excess bile flow into the sac.

Gallstones can be genetic. However, you can make some lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of gallstones and a gallbladder attack.

  • Lose weight.Being obese or overweight increases your risk. This is because it can make the bile higher in cholesterol.
  • Train and move.An inactive lifestyle or spending a lot of time sitting increases your risk.
  • Gradually achieve a more balanced lifestyle.Losing weight too quickly increases the risk of gallstones. This is because rapid weight loss causes the liver to produce more cholesterol. Avoid fad diets, skipping meals and taking weight loss supplements.

Follow a healthy daily diet and exercise regularly to safely lose weight. TODietTo prevent gallstones, you should avoid unhealthy fats and foods high in sugar or starch. Eat more foods that help lower cholesterol. These include high-fiber foods such as:

  • fresh and frozen vegetables
  • fresh, frozen and dried fruit
  • Wholemeal bread and pasta
  • Integral Rice
  • lenses
  • beans
  • Andenhirse
  • Couscous

If you have a gallbladder attack, talk to your doctor about how to prevent another one. You may need surgery to remove your gallbladder. You can have normal, healthy digestion without a gallbladder.

Keep in mind that you can get gallstones even with a healthy, balanced diet and plenty of exercise. Causes like:

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  • Genetics (gallstones run in the family)
  • being female (estrogen increases bile cholesterol)
  • be over 40 years old (cholesterol increases with age)
  • of Native American or Mexican descent (some races and ethnicities are more prone to gallstones)

Conditions that may increase the risk of a gallbladder attack include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Typ 2 Diabetes
  • Crohn's disease

Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of gallstones or if you have one or more risk factors. An ultrasound can help determine if you have gallstones. If you've had a gallbladder attack, see your doctor for all follow-up appointments, even if you don't need treatment.


Do gallbladder attacks get progressively worse? ›

A gallbladder attack usually causes a sudden gnawing pain that gets progressively worse. You may also experience other concerns, such as nausea or sickness and a high temperature, especially if it develops into acute cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder).

How long can you go with gallbladder attacks? ›

Gallbladder pain may last for a few minutes to a few hours. If it doesn't go away within a few hours, you may have a serious health condition. You should see your healthcare provider for pain lasting longer than two to three hours, especially if you have other symptoms.

What happens if you keep having gallbladder attacks? ›

If you experience repeated gallstone attacks with severe pain or have complications such as inflammation, your physician may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder. As with any surgery, there are risks involved but the benefits often outweigh these minimal risks.

How long does it take to recover from gallbladder flare up? ›

Overall, recovery will vary depending on each individual patient but usually patients can get back to work within a week and can be active right away.

How do you know if gallbladder pain is emergency? ›

The most common gallstone symptom is severe abdominal pain in the upper right area of the stomach, which can spread to the shoulder or upper back. You may also vomit and feel nauseous. Seek emergency medical care if these symptoms last more than two hours or you have a fever.

Can you go months between gallbladder attacks? ›

Biliary colic is often known as a gallbladder or gallstone attack. This is because it can repeatedly happen every time a gallstone blocks a bile duct. Pain will go away if the gallstone is no longer blocking the bile duct. There can be weeks or months between episodes of biliary colic.

How many gallbladder attacks can you have before surgery? ›

There is little risk in not having surgery if you have only one mild attack. But if you have more than one painful attack, you're likely to have more in the future. The risks of not treating gallstones may include: Unpredictable attacks of gallstone pain.

Can a gallbladder flare up last for days? ›

In most patients, a gallbladder attack will last one to four days and then subside. In rare severely affected patients, the gallbladder wall may rupture (perforate) or pus may build up within the gallbladder (empyema). In these patients, surgery may be necessary.

What warrants emergency gallbladder surgery? ›

You may need your gallbladder removed if:

you have jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes) caused by a gallstone blocking your bile duct. you have inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) caused by gallstones. you have cancer of your gallbladder.

Why am I having so many gallbladder attacks? ›

Weight and Diet Play a Role

If you eat foods high in calories and refined carbohydrates and don't get much fiber, you raise your risk of a gallbladder attack. You're also more likely to get them if you're obese. Quick weight loss can bring them on, too. For example, your risk goes up after weight loss surgery.

How do I know if my gallbladder needs to be removed? ›

Some symptoms that may indicate the need for gallbladder removal include: sharp pain in the right upper portion of your abdomen that can radiate to the middle of your abdomen, right shoulder, or back. fever. nausea.
Why open gallbladder removal is done
  1. bloating.
  2. nausea.
  3. vomiting.
  4. further pain.

What is the downside of having gallbladder removed? ›

When the gallbladder is removed, special clips are used to seal the tube that connects the gallbladder to the main bile duct. But bile fluid can occasionally leak out into the tummy (abdomen) after the gallbladder is removed. Symptoms of a bile leak include tummy pain, feeling sick, a fever and a swollen tummy.

Can the ER do anything for gallbladder pain? ›

When a gallbladder attack occurs, it can land you in the emergency room. Because there is no medication to treat gallstones, surgical removal of the gallbladder may be your only treatment option. Laparoscopic surgery is the most common surgery used to remove a gallbladder.

Can an inflamed gallbladder get better? ›

Your symptoms are likely to decrease in 2 to 3 days. However, gallbladder inflammation often returns. Most people with cholecystitis eventually need surgery to remove the gallbladder.

Can stress and anxiety cause gallbladder problems? ›

Stress-induced inhibition of gall bladder emptying could affect energy assimilation such that subordinate animals would not be able to effectively convert energy-rich food into mass gain. These results parallel changes in gall bladder function preceding cholesterol gallstone formation in humans and other mammals.

Should I go to the ER for mild gallbladder pain? ›

Seek immediate medical care at a hospital or call 911 if you suspect you are having a gallbladder attack. If the ducts are blocked for more than a few hours, serious complications can occur. Some of these complications can be life threatening.

What helps gallbladder pain ASAP? ›

For gallbladder health, a heated compress can calm spasms and relieve pressure from bile buildup. To relieve gallbladder pain, wet a towel with warm water and apply it to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also use a heating pad or hot water bottle for the same effect.

How urgent is an inflamed gallbladder? ›

Acute cholecystitis is swelling (inflammation) of the gallbladder. It is a potentially serious condition that usually needs to be treated in hospital. The main symptom of acute cholecystitis is a sudden sharp pain in the upper right side of your tummy (abdomen) that spreads towards your right shoulder.

Can you have a bad gallbladder for years? ›

More commonly, pain in the mid or upper right portion of the abdomen, usually after eating, is the most common symptom. Gallstones may be present and completely asymptomatic for many years.

Can you have an inflamed gallbladder for years? ›

What is chronic cholecystitis? Cholecystitis is the sudden inflammation of your gallbladder. If this condition persists over time, such as for months, with repeated attacks, or if there are recurrent problems with gallbladder function, it's known as chronic cholecystitis.

How long can your gallbladder act up? ›

Usually, a gallbladder attack will last anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. The length of a flare-up largely depends on the size of the gallstone.

Does gallbladder pain get worse? ›

The most obvious sign of acute cholecystitis is the sudden onset of intense pain near the upper right of the abdomen or under the right shoulder blade, which radiates outward. The pain gets worse with deep breathing as the diaphragm will put pressure on the liver, which then irritates the gallbladder further.

Do gallbladder attacks come go? ›

Most people experience gallbladder pain in waves, says Dr. Sandau. It can come and go, lasting for a few minutes to several hours and is often triggered by a fatty meal.

Do gallbladder attacks stop suddenly? ›

Your gallbladder attack may go away on its own. This can happen if the gallstones safely pass and don't cause complications. You'll still need a follow-up visit with your doctor.

What happens if you ignore gallbladder pain? ›

If gallstones lodge in a bile duct and cause a blockage, it eventually results in severe life-threatening complications such as bile duct inflammation and infection, pancreatitis or cholecystitis (an inflammation of gallbladder). In addition, if left untreated, it might increase risk of “gallbladder cancer”.

Can you live with gallbladder pain? ›

If your gallstones aren't causing symptoms, you may live the rest of your life without any problems. If you do experience symptoms, your doctor may want to remove your gallbladder. You don't need your gallbladder to live. So when it's removed, you won't notice much difference.

How urgent is gallbladder surgery? ›

Many people think of gallbladder surgery as an emergency procedure. However, patients can have their gallbladder removed electively if needed – and it's usually an easier procedure with a quicker recovery.

How long are you hospitalized for gallbladder removal? ›

After open surgery, you'll usually have to stay in hospital for 3 to 5 days, and your recovery time will be longer. It can take around 3 to 4 weeks to return to your normal activities, and 6 to 8 weeks if you have a more manual job. In either case, you'll need to arrange for someone to take you home from hospital.

What painkiller is good for gallbladder pain? ›

You might need to have a stronger painkiller such as codeine or dihydrocodeine (DF118), perhaps with an anti inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen (Nurofen) or diclofenac (Voltarol). If the pain is still not controlled you might need a stronger morphine-type painkiller.

Does gallbladder pain get better when lying down? ›

Gallbladder pain is relatively common and is usually caused by gallstones that block your bile duct. Resting or sleeping on your left side can help manage pain caused by gallstones if you have a clogged bile duct. You may also want to try other home remedies for pain relief.

Can gallbladder problems last for days? ›

Affected individuals may develop a bacterial infection preceding or during a gallbladder attack. In most patients, a gallbladder attack will last one to four days and then subside.

What does a ruptured gallbladder feel like? ›

Symptoms of gallbladder rupture

nausea and vomiting. sharp pain in right upper quadrant of your abdomen. jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and eyes. fever.


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