If you’ve ever felt a sharp pain in your upper right abdomen that lasts for minutes or even hours, there’s a good chance that you know the pain of a gallbladder attack. Similar to a heart attack, a gallbladder attack occurs when a blockage prevents fluid from navigating normally throughout your body. But what actually causes this blockage, and how can a gallbladder attack be treated? We answer those questions and more in today’s blog on gallbladder attacks.
Why Does A Gallbladder Attack Happen?
As we mentioned in the intro, a gallbladder attack occurs when something causes a blockage inside the organ. The gallbladder acts as a storage tank for bile, which is a substance that helps to break down food particles during the digestive process. When you eat, bile is secreted from the gallbladder into the small intestine to aid with this process. However, if this bile can’t be released as expected because of a blockage, it can become uncomfortable in a hurry.
So what causes these blockages in the bile ducts of the gallbladder? They are actually caused by an object called a gallstone. A gallstone is a tiny formation made of cholesterol, bilirubin or calcium salts, and they are actually more common here in America because Western diets tend to be higher in processed or fatty foods. Cholesterol is actually a key component of bile, but if there’s too much of it in your bile, it can end up packing together and forming small impediments.
Gallbladder Attack Symptoms
Gallstones are more common than you might imagine, and you might even have some right now and not even know it. Sometimes these small stones are passed with ease or they don’t block bile flow fully such that it cannot be released as needed. However, if you develop multiple stones and they impede bile release, or one large stone ends up blocking everything up, you may feel a gallbladder attack shortly after your next meal. When this bile can’t be released properly through the ducts, the gallbladder can involuntarily spasm, which can cause significant pain. Symptoms of a mild to severe gallbladder attack have been described as:
- Feeling like being stabbed with a knife
- Unable to fully breath without pain
- Mimicking symptoms of a heart attack
Other symptoms of a gallbladder attack include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Treating A Gallbladder Attack
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s imperative that you seek out care from a medical specialist like Dr. Bhatti. Problems and pain will only likely get worse if you ignore it and the gallstone isn’t passed, so reach out to an expert. They can use imaging devices to view the blockage and determine the best course of treatment.
In many instances, a minimally invasive surgery is the best option. Instead of cutting open the bile ducts and trying to remove the tiny blockages, the most common surgery is a cholecystectomy, which involves removing the entire gallbladder. This may seem like an extreme option, but remember, the gallbladder is just a storage tank for bile. Instead of being produced in the liver, stored in the gallbladder and released into the small intestine when needed, bile will now just flow from the liver to your small intestine. You may not have as much bile right away to help digest a big meal, but with small tweaks to your eating habits and time for your body to learn your new routine, many people can function just fine without the bile-storing organ.
So if you have severe pain in your upper right abdomen, especially after eating, make an appointment with a gallbladder specialist like Dr. Bhatti. One minimally invasive operation can free you from repeated gallbladder attacks and prevent more serious issues that could develop if the problem was ignored. To learn more about your options, or to see if your pain is being caused by gallstones, reach out to the experienced team at Bhatti G.I. Consultants today.