gallbladder attack

Symptoms of Gallbladder Attack and How to Treat?

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped, small organ that’s tucked below your liver. Even though you may not think much about it until it starts to hurt.

The gallbladder releases a greenish fluid called bile each time you eat to help your body digest vitamins and fats. The bile flows down to the small intestine through tubes called ducts. When something goes wrong with your bile ducts or gallbladder, the upper right side of your belly may hurt. You may also feel:

  • Tired
  • Itchy
  • Bloated
  • Throwing up
  • Feverish
  • Pain in the chest or back, especially when you take deep breaths

Other common symptoms include yellow eyes and skin (jaundice), weight loss, and color changes in your poop or pee.


These are the top reason for gallbladder pain. You get them when bile clumps together into hard masses. Gallstones can be specks or the size of a golf ball. If they get big enough, these stones can block bile from flowing out. It can also lead to a gallstone attack, a sudden pain at the upper right part of your belly.

Bile duct stones

These are either gallstones that get stuck in your bile ducts or stones that form in them. It may give you no trouble until they block the bile ducts. You might have some serious pain in your belly that comes and goes for hours sometimes. Your eyes and skin may turn yellow, and you may feel to throw up.

Perforated gallbladder

It can happen when your gallstones over time wear a hole in the walls of your organ. Even if it is rare, it is deadly. The upper right part of your belly may hurt. You might also suffer from vomiting, nausea, and high fever.

Gallbladder abscess

The reason for this infection is the bile buildup from obstruction (including gallstones). The infection may resist the treatment with antibiotics and need to be drained. A serious abscess can result in a tear, which allows the infection to enter the inside lining of the abdomen.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)

It is a liver disease that damages your bile ducts. Keep in mind that it gets worse over time. About 4 out of 5 people with PSC also have inflammatory bowel disease. Sometimes people do not come across with any symptoms. They may also feel tired or have pain in the upper right side of the abdomen or itchy skin. The condition is often found when routine blood tests show your liver isn’t working right.

Bile duct scars

Narrowed bile ducts from scar tissues can keep the bile from flowing out of your gallbladder and liver into the small intestine. It can make you hurt on the right side of your abdomen where the organs are located. You might also be tired or itchy, have a lack of appetite, night sweats, fever, or jaundice.

Bile duct cancer

You may not have symptoms in the early stages of this cancer. If you do, it is often because of the blockage in the bile duct. Jaundice is one of the most common symptoms, along with light-colored and itchy skin or greasy poop. If your tumors are big enough, you may have belly pain, below your ribs on the right side.

Symptoms of a gallbladder attack

If you have had a gallbladder attack, you are at a high risk of another one. Here are some symptoms you may suffer:

  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Pain that doesn’t change or worsen when you move
  • Intense pain that makes it difficult to sit still
  • Sharp pain just below the breastbone, in the middle of your abdomen
  • Sharp or sudden pain that lasts for minutes to hours

Treatment for gallbladder attack

If you visit a doctor, they are bound to give you pain medication that may help you to ease the pain. You may also be given anti-nausea drugs that help to relieve the symptoms.

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

  • HIDA scan
  • Liver function blood test
  • CT scan
  • Abdominal X-ray
  • Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound is the most quickest and common way for a doctor to see if you have gallstones.


An oral drug called ursodiol (Actigall, Urso), also known as ursodeoxycholic acid, helps dissolve cholesterol gallstones. It may be right for you if your pain goes away on its own or you do not have symptoms. It works on a small number of gallstones that are just 2 to 3 millimeters in size.

Prevent further attacks

Gallstones may be genetic, however, you can make some changes in your lifestyle to lower down the risks of getting gallstones or having a gallbladder attack.

  • Achieve a more balanced lifestyle
  • Exercise and get moving
  • Lose weight


If you suffer from a gallbladder attack, call the doctor and learn about the ways to prevent it. If they prescribe you medication, download an Rx card for discounts. If the situation doesn’t improve with medications, you may need gallbladder removal surgery. You can have healthy, normal digestion without a gallbladder.


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