Gallbladder attack symptoms are mostly due to gallstones getting lodged in your gallbladder. However, there are also some uncommon causes that allow such symptoms to manifest such as certain health conditions or tumors located in the bile duct.
In this article, we’re going to talk about 12 of the most common symptoms of a possible gallbladder attack. They’re as follows:
1. Nausea and Vomiting
One of the most common, nausea and vomiting can occur almost all of the time during a gallbladder attack. Even though they might not be the best indicator that you’re suffering from a problem in your gallbladder, you have to consult with your doctor as soon as possible when you start experiencing such problems, especially if they happen more often.
The reason why you experience nausea and vomiting during a gallbladder attack is because the stone gets lodged in one of the ducts responsible for keeping your digestive enzymes flowing. When that happens, swelling, inflammation, and severe pain can be felt which can then transition into nausea and vomiting.
Moreover, a long-term disorder in your gallbladder can also trigger digestive problems that can lead to recurring nausea. However, do take note that only a chronic gallbladder disease can cause digestive problems.
2. Pain in the Abdomen
Perhaps the most common indicator that you have gallstones in your gallbladder is abdominal pain or pain that’s specifically felt in your abdomen’s upper right section. In most cases, pain in the abdominal area will come and go. However, in the case of a gallbladder attack, such pain can vary in intensity from mild and irregular pain into a severe and more frequent one.
Most of the time, abdominal pain which is caused by gallstones can also cause pain in your back and chest area. This happens when gallbladder contracts after eating or other normal stimuli, and as a result, will try to force stone out of it. This event leads to pain that will last from a few seconds to even a few hours.
A lot of people who have gallstones and experience pain in their abdomen will often feel the pain fading away shortly after. Since the pain isn’t that severe and only occurs every once in a while, most of them choose not to undergo surgery.
However, if you’re only of the unlucky few who suffer from frequent episodes of severe pain in your abdominal area, then it’s best to consult your doctor right away.
Jaundice is also another symptom of an underlying gallbladder problem. This is characterized by the yellowing of your skin as well as the whites of your eyes due to liver trouble. Though it can be a common problem among newborn babies, it can also be a symptom of a gallbladder attack among adults.
The gallbladder normally releases bile to the small intestines via the cystic duct which is directly connected to the bile duct. However, during a gallbladder attack, a gallstone gets lodged in a bile duct, thereby preventing bile from flowing toward the small intestines. This causes a blockage which, in turn, increases the concentration of a yellow substance known as bilirubin in the gallbladder.
Once too much bilirubin has accumulated, it then gets deposited into the skin, thereby causing it to turn yellow. Additionally, it can cause the whites in your eyes to turn into somewhat of a yellowish hue as well.
4. Changes in Your Bowel Movement
Changes in your bowel habits can also be one of the symptoms of an underlying gallbladder issue. One possible instance is frequent and unexplained diarrhea which is commonly associated with chronic gallbladder disease. This tends to occur up to 4 times a day (in some cases, it could be up to 10 times) and is even accompanied by recurring pain.
Additionally, the pain you might feel could be all over your belly instead of being concentrated in a single spot. For example, instead of feeling pain only in the abdominal area, you might also experience pain in the lower back or the breast bone due to a gallbladder attack. This can also lead to chalky or light-colored tools.
The presence of diarrhea during a gallbladder attack is mainly due to the insufficient supply of bile into the small intestine due to blockage (as mentioned earlier). You’ll also experience dark yellow urine even though you’re constantly hydrated due to the breakdown of bilirubin.
Your gallbladder has a major role in your body’s digestion. Therefore, if it fails to function normally as it should, it’s most likely because of blockage in the bile duct due to gallstones. As a result, food won’t be able to move through the body properly. This can lead to bloating or experiencing the feeling of being abnormally full for long periods, even after you’ve only eaten a small meal.
Additionally, bloating occurs since your digestion process is considerably slowed down, causing food to remain in your stomach for a longer period. It’s for this reason why you normally experience belching or burping.
Bloating isn’t the only digestion-related problem that can occur during a gallbladder attack. In fact, the poor flow of bile toward your small intestine can also lead to constipation. This is because poor bile production can slow down muscle contractions in your digestive system. Under normal circumstances, these muscles are the ones responsible for moving food through your body.
According to Dr. Mark Babyatsky of Everyday Health, constipation could be due to gallstone ileus which is a pretty rare condition where a large gallstone moves from the gallbladder toward the intestine, thereby blocking digested food which has come from the small intestine and is on its way to the large intestine.
6. Fever and Chills
Fever and chills can also happen in the event of a gallbladder attack. If you’re experiencing this symptom, it’s possible that your bile duct is infected. In some cases, this is accompanied by a rapid heartbeat as well as abdominal pain that just won’t seem to go away. Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center reported that around 1/3 of all gallstone sufferers normally experience such symptoms.
However, do take note that just because you have fever doesn’t mean necessarily you can get typical biliary colic. In fact, more serious fevers can be an indication of acute cholecystitis which is the inflammation of the gallbladder. It’s a life-threatening condition that should be taken care of immediately.
You should also keep in mind that fever generally won’t occur during a typical gallbladder attack. Instead, it’s a distinguishing characteristic of an infection. If you’re experiencing sudden spikes in your body temperature, it could mean that you have gallbladder rupture or gangrene.
7. Chest Pain
Most of the time, a gallbladder attack can be mistaken for a heart attack due to the presence of pain in the chest area. This happens when either the bile duct or gallbladder gets blocked or infected, causing acid trapped in the stomach to climb its way up to the chest. This can result in an intense pain that can resemble that of a heart attack.
Even though chest pain is one of the symptoms of a heart attack, especially after a big meal, it could be more indicative of an underlying gallbladder problem. Heartburn is one of the common symptoms of a gallbladder attack if it happens right after eating or perhaps when bending over as it puts pressure on your chest and abdomen,
When you experience heartburn due to a gallbladder problem, you’ll feel a burning sensation that starts from your chest then climbs up then spreads to your neck and upper abdomen. There are also other indications of a gallstone presence that are similar to that of indigestion such as cramping and acid reflux, and due to that, most sufferers end up ignoring the signs.
However, if they tend to become recurrent especially after meals, then it’s a clear indication of a blockage in the gallbladder due to a gallstone.
8. Loss of Appetite
As the pain brought by gallstone gets more severe, you’re more likely to suffer from a loss of appetite. As a result, you’ll end up not eating since you’re afraid of the pain and discomfort following a meal. This is due to the blockage caused by a gallstone which tends to make digestion quite painful.
9. Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades
Since pain is typically one of the most common symptoms of a gallbladder attack, you’ll often make the mistake of ruling out any pain in your body due to a gallbladder issue. However, a gallbladder attack normally targets certain spots in your body, and one of them is the area between your shoulder blades.
As mentioned earlier, pain associated with a gallbladder attack typically occurs in the chest or abdomen. However, it can also spread out to other body parts, and in most cases, in between your shoulder blades.
In most cases, it will affect the right shoulder blade area before spreading in the opposite direction. The reason is that even though the gallbladder isn’t capable of experiencing pain, its nerves, however, extend to the muscles found in your back – and most of them are found in the area around your right shoulder blade.
Pancreatitis can also be a symptom of a gallbladder attack as the gallstones in your gallbladder can also block the movement of enzymes that are produced by your pancreas. This can lead to inflammation which, in turn, can lead to intense pain in your pancreatic area which is on the left side of your upper abdomen.
Gallstone pancreatitis, the medical term used for this condition, exhibits similar symptoms as that of regular gallstone symptoms. These including pain in the abdominal area which worsens after eating, pain in your back, nausea, and vomiting.
11. Changes in the Color of Your Urine
Gallstones are small stones formed due to bile pigment, cholesterol, and calcium salts combining with each other. Once they get lodged in the gallbladder, the bile pigment will cause your urine to become dark yellow or brown. In some cases, there are patients who reportedly experience urine that’s either deep brown or maroon.
The reason for this is that the bile duct is blocked by gallstones which can result in more dangerous waste products circulating your body instead of getting excreted via peeing. It can also indicate dehydration, but if you find yourself to be well-hydrated, then chances are high that it’s a gallbladder issue. Meanwhile, if your urine is blood-tinged, then it’s a possible kidney damage, and immediate medical help is needed.
While there are a lot of possible reasons for a headache, including sleep deprivation and stress, it can also be a possible indicator of an underlying gallbladder issue. However, since it’s very common, most people who have undiagnosed gallbladder problems are less likely to think about it.
According to Dr. Jockers, congestion in your gallbladder due to gallstone blockage can stress out the body and produce inflammation in your gut. Since both of these events tend to increase tension in your blood supply, particularly around the brain and skull, you’ll end up experiencing migraines and headaches.
One means of telling whether your headache is a symptom of a gallbladder attack or not is by checking if the pain happens over your eyes, specifically above your right eye.
The symptoms of an underlying gallbladder issue tend to come and go. However, if you’ve been experiencing a few of these symptoms repeatedly and in short intervals, then it’s highly likely that you have one.
Even though gallbladder issues aren’t deadly at most times, you still need to have them treated immediately. If you just leave them be, you’ll only end up worsening your problems, and that can only lead to severe health complications.
Some of the symptoms which you should pay attention to and should prompt you to seek immediate medical assistance are:
• Long-lasting abdominal pain
• Pale stools
• Intense pain in the shoulder blades and chest
• Recurring fever that’s accompanied by any of the above symptoms