Pain from a gallbladder attack can come on suddenly and be downright scary! That’s why recognizing symptoms of gallstones can help you stay calm and seek appropriate treatment.
Your gallbladder is a little sac which stores bile produced in the liver. This bile is used by your body to breakdown fat. Gallstones may be formed when the bile duct is blocked or there is a change in the consistency of bile. Gallstones usually do not cause any symptoms and are discovered incidentally when undergoing routine checkups.
Occasionally, gallstones may cause symptoms. You may experience sudden, severe abdominal pain (biliary colic) that may last a few minutes or a few hours. The pain may be right in the center of your abdomen or towards the right just under your ribs. It may also spread from your right side to your shoulder blade. Pain may be triggered by eating fatty foods, but can occur at any time and may even wake you up in the middle of the night. Episodes of biliary colic may be spread out over a period of several weeks or months. Other symptoms include excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, and digestive problems such as bloating, heartburn, and gas.
You may have an increased risk of developing gallstones if you are female, obese, above 40 years of age, or consume a high-fat and low-fiber diet. To prevent your risk of developing gallstones, it is important to maintain a healthy weight. However, it must be noted that trying to lose weight too quickly or skipping meals can also increase your risk of developing gallstones.
Patients that experience gallstone symptoms which interfere with their activities of daily living may require surgical removal of their gallbladder. Immediate medical attention should be sought if the abdominal pain is very intense or there is noticeable yellowing of eyes and skin accompanied by very high fever.